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SEK 47.5 million for interdisciplinary research on protein synthesis

2010-12-20

Seven researchers at Uppsala University have been granted a full SEK 47.5 million from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation to study the structure of ribosomes, the protein factories in cells. This key research field is of great importance to research on resistance to antibiotics and to enhancing our knowledge of the genesis of diseases.

“Our approach is unique in the research world in that we combine scientific expertise from all fields of relevance to understanding the ribosome function in a network of collaborative projects that crosses the traditional boundaries of biology,” says Måns Ehrenberg, professor of molecular biology at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology.

Nearly all functions in the cells of all organisms are carried out by proteins. Proteins are fabricated on ribosomes, where the genetic information that exists in the genes is translated to the cells’ amino acid chains, which are then folded into active proteins. This translation of genetic information is extremely meticulous, occurs rapidly, and requires a great deal of the cells’ energy. Serious hereditary diseases can result from mistakes in the protein synthesis machinery, and bacteria ribosomes are the targets of many medically important antibiotic preparations. In 2000 the molecular crystal structures of both of the ribosome’s sub-units were determined. This has revolutionized ribosome research, but the functional implications of these structures remain largely unexplored. The Uppsala scientists will use this major grant to study the structure, function, physiology, and evolution of the ribosome.

The seven teams, led by Måns Ehrenberg (lead applicant), Dan Andersson, Diarmaid Hughes, Suparna Sanyal, Maria Selmer, Johan Åqvist, and Johan Elf, constitute a consortium of internationally recognized ribosome researchers with expertise in crystallography, biological computations from crystal structures, biochemistry and rapid kinetics, single molecule spectroscopy for individual cells, molecular biology, systems biology, molecular genetics, and molecular evolution.

The consortium’s interdisciplinary approach is reinforced by the development of an interdisciplinary pedagogy with consequences for life sciences in general.