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Postepy Biochem. 2016;62(3):242-249.

The young person's guide to the PDB.

Author information

University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA.
Macromolecular Crystallography Laboratory, National Cancer Institute, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL 60439, USA.
Zakład Krystalografii, Wydział Chemii, Uniwersytet im. A. Mickiewicza w Poznaniu ul. Grunwaldzka 6, 60-780 Poznań, Polska.
Centrum Badań Biokrystalograficznych, Instytut Chemii Bioorganicznej PAN, ul. Z. Noskowskiego 12/14, 61-704 Poznań, Polska.


in English, Polish

The Protein Data Bank (PDB), created in 1971 when merely seven protein crystal structures were known, today holds over 120, 000 experimentally-determined three-dimensional models of macromolecules, including gigantic structures comprised of hundreds of thousands of atoms, such as ribosomes and viruses. Most of the deposits come from X-ray crystallography experiments, with important contributions also made by NMR spectroscopy and, recently, by the fast growing Cryo-Electron Microscopy. Although the determination of a macromolecular crystal structure is now facilitated by advanced experimental tools and by sophisticated software, it is still a highly complicated research process requiring specialized training, skill, experience and a bit of luck. Understanding the plethora of structural information provided by the PDB requires that its users (consumers) have at least a rudimentary initiation. This is the purpose of this educational overview.


Protein Data Bank; data mining; macromolecular structure; structural biology; structural databases; structure validation

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