High resolution/sensitivity solid-state NMR: A new approach towards in-situ structural biology


All basic processes in life involve interactions of molecules within functional modules on different spatial and temporal scales. Their failure directly affects human health ranging from Alzheimers and Parkinsons disease to cancer and cardiovascular disorders. With techniques such as light microscopy and cryo-electron tomography, great progress has been made to visualize complex biomolecules and even complete cellular entities at the micro- to nanometer scale. Yet, the essential functional building blocks of such systems, i.e., atoms, molecules and their complexes thus far remained invisible because of insufficient sensitivity and resolution.

Very recently, technological breakthroughs in solid-state Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (ssNMR) have taken place that establish high resolution conditions and can increase sensitivity by more than two orders of magnitude. We have performed test experiments that confirm that this hires-ssNMR technology for the first time offers the possibility to characterize complex functional networks and elementary biomolecular processes in situ and at atomic scale. With this application we request financial support to implement such hires-ssNMR equipment at Utrecht University. This installation would allow for an entirely new range of ssNMR-based studies that can bridge the gap between 3D nanoscopy on cells or other complex biomolecules and traditional structural biology.

Our group has a strong background in NMR method development and gained significant expertise to apply such techniques at the forefront of structural biology and biophysics. Funding of this proposal will reinforce the leading status of the Netherlands in the field of biomolecular NMR and will create a new research area that merges structural and cell biology.

At present, Utrecht is home to strong research lines in structural biology, developmental and molecular cell biology as well as to excellent pharmacological and clinical science. This initiative will hence provide an exceptional opportunity to establish Utrecht as an internationally unique place to study cellular processes and combat diseases related to them from the atomic scale to the clinical environment. Such research will also provide new clues to address other principal challenges of our society including the natural production of energy or the generation and removal of biomaterial.





Prof. dr. M.H. Baldus

Verbonden aan

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Bètawetenschappen, Departement Scheikunde


15/11/2010 tot 24/10/2013