Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structure

How do individual molecules combine to perform complex biological functions?

Scientists at the Vienna BioCenter are using bottom-up approaches to discover how individual molecules assemble into sophisticated 3D structures that perform highly specialized cellular functions. By combining biochemistry research, biophysics research, and state-of-the-art structural methods, scientists are resolving macromolecular complexes at atomic resolution, reconstituting multi-component complexes in vitro, studying protein-ligand interactions, and observing molecular machines in action.

Understanding the 3D structures of biological macromolecules and complexes such as the nuclear pore and the proteasome, and learning how they acquire these structures, is key for understanding their diverse and specialized functions. Three basic scientific disciplines are central to this field and synergize at the Vienna BioCenter: biochemistry, biophysics, and structural biology. Traditional biochemistry research is increasingly complemented by the related discipline of biophysics, which applies approaches and methods in physics to study biomolecules and their interactions. Structural biology, a branch of biochemistry and biophysics, provides ever more detailed views of complex biomolecules. These interrelated disciplines are crucial for understanding how macromolecular machines form and function, and what causes them to malfunction, which can provide important insights into many different human diseases.

At the Vienna BioCenter, scientists from nearly half of the 90 research groups extensively employ such interdisciplinary approaches to directly observe, model, and manipulate biomolecules and their complexes. Techniques in regular use include single-molecule biochemistry, cryo-electron microscopy (EM), X-ray crystallography, NMR, mass spectrometry, protein complex stoichiometry analysis, and fluorescence imaging. In particular, researchers in the structural biology labs are exploiting recent developments in single particle cryo-EM and contributing to further technological progress. Cryo-EM can solve the structures of large macromolecular complexes at high resolution and visualize macromolecular machines in action. For example, our scientists have used the technique to study different functional states of the 1.5-MDa anaphase-promoting complex, which is a key regulator of the cell cycle.

Our researchers are using the above approaches to gain groundbreaking insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying a wide range of fundamental cellular processes such as chromosome segregation and cell division, signal transduction, protein quality control and degradation, viral infection, RNA processing, post-transcriptional regulation, ciliogenesis, and muscle contraction.


Infrastructure and support for these endeavors are provided by the Electron Microscopy Facility, the Metabolomics Facility, and the Protein Technologies Facility. In coordination with these Core Facilities, scientists at the Vienna BioCenter are continually pushing the boundaries of current technologies, both experimental and computational, to answer biological questions in completely new ways.

Research Groups "Biochemistry, Biophysics, Structure"

Research Group Institute Topic
Berger GMI Chromatin Architecture and Function
Dagdas GMI Autophagy-mediated cellular quality control mechanisms in plants
Ramundo GMI Chloroplast biogenesis and protein quality control
Brennecke IMBA Transposon silencing & heterochromatin formation by small RNAs
Gerlich IMBA Chromosome structure and dynamics
Goloborodko IMBA Theoretical Models of Chromosome Structure
Saha IMBA Role of macromolecular phase separation in germline cell fate and totipotency
Balzarotti IMP Advanced Light Microscopy and Biophysics
Clausen IMP Molecular mechanisms of protein quality control
Haselbach IMP Watching molecular machines in action
Pauli IMP Functions of short translated open reading frames (ORFs) in the context of development
Peters IMP Mitosis and chromosome biology
Pinheiro IMP Mechanics and signalling dynamics in embryogenesis
Plaschka IMP mRNA processing and regulation
Stark IMP Understanding transcriptional regulation
Ameres Max Perutz Labs Mechanism and Biology of RNA Silencing
Bachmair Max Perutz Labs Protein modifiers in plants
Campbell Max Perutz Labs Mechanisms that ensure chromosome segregation fidelity in mitosis
Djinovic Max Perutz Labs Structural Biology of the Cytoskeleton
Dong Max Perutz Labs Structural studies of ciliogenesis
Falk Max Perutz Labs Biogenesis and Action of small RNAs
Foisner Max Perutz Labs Lamins in nuclear organization and human disease
Huis in 't Veld Max Perutz Labs Preventing DNA damage during mitosis
Juffmann Max Perutz Labs Quantum Microscopy and Biophysics
Karagoez Max Perutz Labs Protein quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum
Koehler Max Perutz Labs Nuclear Pores - Regulators of Chromatin and Membrane Dynamics
Konrat Max Perutz Labs Computational Biology and Biomolecular NMR Spectroscopy
Kuchler Max Perutz Labs Host-Pathogen Interactions & Mechanisms of Drug Resistance & Fungal Pathogenesis
Leonard Max Perutz Labs Structural Biology of Lipid-Activated Signal Transduction
Martens Max Perutz Labs Molecular Mechanisms of Autophagy
Martinez Max Perutz Labs Biochemistry, physiology and disease of the tRNA splicing pathway in mammalian cells
Moll Max Perutz Labs Ribosome Heterogeneity in Bacteria
Nimpf Max Perutz Labs ApoER2 and VLDL Receptor
Ogris Max Perutz Labs PP2A enzyme biogenesis and monoclonal antibodies
Otsuka Max Perutz Labs Intra-cellular Communication between the ER and the Nucleus
Ries Max Perutz Labs Super-resolution microscopy for structural cell biology
Schloegelhofer Max Perutz Labs Meiotic Recombination
Slade Max Perutz Labs DNA damage response
Zagrovic Max Perutz Labs Molecular Biophysics
Boettcher Uni Vienna - CeMESS Chemistry of Microbial Interactions & Microbe-Phage Interactions & Secondary Metabolites & Antibiotics