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Trends Biochem Sci. 2007 Jun;32(6):259-70. Epub 2007 May 3.

Determining membrane protein structures: still a challenge!

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INSERM, U773, Centre de Recherche Biomédicale Bichat Beaujon CRB3, Faculté de Médecine X. Bichat, Université Paris 7, BP 416, F-75018, Paris, France.


Determination of structures and dynamics events of transmembrane proteins is important for the understanding of their function. Analysis of such events requires high-resolution 3D structures of the different conformations coupled with molecular dynamics analyses describing the conformational pathways. However, the solution of 3D structures of transmembrane proteins at atomic level remains a particular challenge for structural biochemists--the need for purified and functional transmembrane proteins causes a 'bottleneck'. There are various ways to obtain 3D structures: X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, NMR and modelling; these methods are not used exclusively of each other, and the chosen combination depends on several criteria. Progress in this field will improve knowledge of ligand-induced activation and inhibition of membrane proteins in addition to aiding the design of membrane-protein-targeted drugs.

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