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Determining protein structures using genetics

By Jörn M. Schmiedel, Ben Lehner

Posted 20 Apr 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/303875 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41588-019-0431-x)

Determining the three dimensional structures of macromolecules is a major goal of biological research because of the close relationship between structure and function. Structure determination usually relies on physical techniques including x-ray crystallography, NMR spectroscopy and cryo-electron microscopy. Here we present a method that allows the high-resolution three-dimensional structure of a biological macromolecule to be determined only from measurements of the activity of mutant variants of the molecule. This genetic approach to structure determination relies on the quantification of genetic interactions (epistasis) between mutations and the discrimination of direct from indirect interactions. This provides a new experimental strategy for structure determination, with the potential to reveal functional and in vivo structural conformations at low cost and high throughput.

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