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Neuron. 2007 May 24;54(4):511-33.

The neurobiologist's guide to structural biology: a primer on why macromolecular structure matters and how to evaluate structural data.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute, Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94158-2330, USA.


Structural biology now plays a prominent role in addressing questions central to understanding how excitable cells function. Although interest in the insights gained from the definition and dissection of macromolecular anatomy is high, many neurobiologists remain unfamiliar with the methods employed. This primer aims to help neurobiologists understand approaches for probing macromolecular structure and where the limits and challenges remain. Using examples of macromolecules with neurobiological importance, the review covers X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy (EM), small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and biophysical methods with which these approaches are often paired: isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), equilibrium analytical ultracentifugation, and molecular dynamics (MD).

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