Structural biology

HEAD: Alessandro Vannini ASSOCIATE HEAD: Gaia Pigino

How do molecular machines work, interact and harmonize their activities to give rise to a fully functional cell? How are these processes regulated and how are they compromised in human disease? The Structural Biology Research Centre aims at answering these questions by gaining precise knowledge of the structure of macromolecules and macromolecular complexes, which is essential to understand how they function.

The Structural Biology Research Centre is underpinned by a state-of-the-art cryo-EM facility, employing both single particle analysis (SPA) and cryo-electron tomography (ET) to obtain high-resolution structures of macromolecular structures both in isolation and in the cellular context. We additionally employ complimentary approaches, such as x-ray crystallography, single-molecule fluorescence microscopy, native and cross-linking mass spectrometry as well as a plethora of biophysical tools to obtain mechanistic details of the function of the macromolecules under study.

The Structural Biology Research Centre covers a broad area of human cell biology with the unifying theme of enhancing our understanding of molecular mechanisms relevant to human diseases. To do so in a comprehensive manner, we create synergies with other centres within Human Technopole, generating crucial knowledge for future drug discovery endeavours.

Centre members

Research groups

  • Pigino Group

    The Pigino Group investigates the 3D structure of molecular components of cilia in their native cellular context and in isolation, trying to answer the question how they orchestrate cilia-specific functions.

  • Vannini Group

    The Vannini Group employs an Integrative Structural Biology approach, combining cutting-edge cryo-EM analysis, x-ray diffraction data, cross-linking and native mass-spectrometry. We integrate the structural data with molecular and cellular biology techniques in order to obtain a comprehensive view of these fundamental processes and how their mis-regulation leads to cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.