Understanding the inner workings
of biological machines

Published September 01 2019


  • Single molecule biophysics — Carlos Bustamante, University of California, Berkeley
  • Myosin: Structure, function, regulation and disease — Michelle Peckham, University of Leeds
  • Watching a fine-tuned molecular machine at work: Structural and functional studies of the 26S proteasome — Andreas Martin, University of California, Berkeley
  • Integrated 3D tomography and computational modeling to study forces in metaphase spindles — Stefanie Redemann, University of Virginia School of Medicine
  • Functional assembly of the mitochondrial protein transport machinery — Nathan Alder, University of Connecticut
  • Nascent protein selection and triage at the ribosome exit site — Shu-ou Shan, California Institute of Technology
  • Structure of the alternative complex III from Flavobacterium johnsoniae in a supercomplex with cytochrome c oxidase — Robert Gennis, University of Illinois
  • Special capabilities of the ribosomal machinery — Roland Beckman, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
  • Sugary coats: Synthesis and secretion of extracellular polysaccharides — Jochen Zimmer, University of Virginia
  • Molecular assemblies of membrane remodeling and scission — James Hurley, University of California, Berkeley
  • Hi-fi molecular transmission via crisscross cooperativity — William Shih, Harvard University
  • Activation of the exocyst tethering complex for SNARE complex regulation and membrane fusion — Mary Munson, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Many biological macromolecules assemble into complexes to perform their physiological functions. These molecular machines range in complexity from relatively simple molecules to large macromolecular assemblies, and they are designed to perform specific tasks within the cell. This thematic session will cover exciting new advances in our understanding of the structure, function and engineering of molecular machines. The session will encompass the wide range of molecular assemblies that accomplish diverse and often essential tasks within a cell, including molecular motors responsible for protein processing and vesicle trafficking as well as supramolecular complexes mediating energy transduction, transport and protein synthesis.

Presentations in this session will cover a wide range of experimental and technical approaches, such as advances in structural biology (cryo-electron microscopy, X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy), single molecule biophysics and super-resolution imaging. It also will cover novel conceptual advances, including new insights into the design of natural and synthetic molecular machines and how energy is transduced to power biological nanomachines at the molecular level.

Keywords: molecular motors, protein complexes, transporters, force generation and transduction, supramolecular assemblies.

Who should attend: those fascinated by structure–function relationships in biological systems, how macromolecules undergo modular assembly and what kinds of energetic input power the work of molecular machines.

Theme song: “Ghosts in My Machine” by Annie Lennox.

This session is powered by ATP and ion gradients.

Nathan Alder Nathan Alder is an associate professor in the department of molecular and cell biology at the University of Connecticut.

Jochen Zimmer Jochen Zimmer is a professor in the department of molecular physiology and biological physics at the University of Virginia.