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Structural Biology (ER-C-3)

Scientific goals

At the ER-C-3, we study the structural biology of essential cellular processes using electron cryo-microscopy (cryo-EM) as our central experimental tool. This technique allows biochemically purified macromolecular structures and multi-protein complexes being investigated in their near-native environment in vitro or inside cells without the need for crystallization. The molecular images obtained in the electron microscope are combined by computer-aided image processing techniques to compute their 3D structures (Figure 1).

As recent advances in hardware and software have led to a wave of atomic-resolution structures, cryo-EM holds great promise in becoming the routine tool for high-resolution structure determination of large macromolecules. However, to fully realize the potential of the technique, further hardware-based improvements and software enhancements will still be required in the future. Therefore, we are also interested in developing new and better approaches in sample preparation, data collection and processing, which can be applied more generally in the challenging research on macromolecular structure determination.

ER-C-3: Work-flow in cryo-EM structure determination.ER-C-3: Work-flow in cryo-EM structure determination.
Copyright: 2018 Carsten Sachse

To gain mechanistic insights into these cellular processes we purify and prepare proteins for structural analyses and complement our cryo-EM structures with high-resolution X-ray structures or with biochemical and cell biology experiments where possible. To reach this aim, it is mandatory to set up long-term projects to structurally understand the molecular and chemical principles that govern the architectures of the cell.

Additional Information



Dr. Carsten Sachse

Acting Head of
"Structural Biology" ER-C-3

Tel: +49 02461 61 2030

Sachse Group at EMBL


Birgit Gehrmann

Tel: +49 02461 61 2031
Fax: +49 02461 61 1448