Structural biology is together the study of molecular biology, biochemistry, and biophysics concerned with the molecular structure of biological macromolecules. Proteins and nucleic acid molecules are the important biomolecules in this regards, It tries to solve the mysteries like how they acquire the structures they have, and how alterations in their structures affect their function.

Structural biology has major applications in biomedical and pharmaceuticals, along with these due to recent development in the field, it has also been exploited in the other areas like food biotechnology, molecular microbiology, nanotechnology, developmental biology, chemistry, and agriculture biology.

Development of new methods for the study of host-parasite interaction, food pathogens, developmental studies, protein-protein interaction, protein-biomaterial interaction [8], interaction of protein-non-biological materials like nanoparticles [6, 7, 4], synthetic materials and protein-chemical inhibitors. The structural biology uses a combination of molecular biology techniques, biochemical and biophysical techniques to solve the purpose.

The massive number of three dimensional structures of the proteins from bacteria, plants to humans has been solved till this time by scientists from the field. A recent update (12th Aug.2015, 12:17pm) shows that 1, 11, 241 Biological Macromolecular Structures has been deposited in in protein data bank (PDB). [10] Three dimensional structures of protein paves a new way for the designing of new inhibitor.

Structural biology in Agricultural Research:

A common approach is followed in structural studies in all the areas; solving the three dimensional structure of a protein trying to highlight the role of the subunit(s) in the function of the protein in a biological system and inhibitor studies.

Plant Pathology: Protein structural studies help us for the better understanding of host-parasite interaction. It may be related with plant pathogen (insects, moths etc.) Or interaction in Protein-DNA and in between proteins in signaling in the pathogen or plant. [1]

Plant development: Structures and availability of the functional protein changes from one stage to another stage of the development and differentiation of a cell (or) an organism. These structural changes are well studied by structural biologists. External environment of the cell (system) always has a profound effect on the concentration of a particular protein in the part of the cell because of the coarse and fine regulation these compounds by the cell. Protein interaction with the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) in the cell at different stages of development. [5, 2]

Sericulture: In silk research proteins from different fungal and viral pathogens can be studied for their structural changes in the different stages of infection and their interaction, helps in the development of novel inhibitors. In consort with genetic engineering the quality of the silk in terms of mechanical properties (strength, elasticity etc.) Can be improved. [9]

X-ray diffraction (XRD), Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and Circular dichroism (CD) spectroscopy are the traditional techniques used for the structural studies of the protein, but recent Small Angle X-Ray Scattering (SAXS) and Wide Angle X-ray Scattering (WAXS) are also being utilized to solve the structures and interaction studies. [3]

Computational Biology, most of the time, concomitant with Bioinformatics, is the science of using biological data to develop algorithms and relations among various biological systems. Due to the development of computational biology and Bioinformatics it has become very easy for biologists to handle massive amount of biological data. Large number of Bioinformatics tool, servers, online databases, analysis tools are freely available web based sources. These tools are specific for each biomolecule and their interaction. These help users to easily analyze large amount of data within few seconds/ minutes. In the last two decades, there is a tremendous increase in data in the Bioinformatics and computational research.


1. Celia WG (1997). Sequence And Structural Features Of Plant And Fungal Tyrosinases, Phytochemistry 45, 7, 1309-1323.
2. Christoph Spitzer (2009). The ESCRT-Related CHMP1A and B Proteins Mediate Multivesicular Body Sorting of Auxin Carriers in Arabidopsis and Are Required for Plant Development, The Plant Cell, Vol. 21: 749-766.
3. Dmitri I Svergun et al (2003). Small-angle scattering studies of biological macromolecules in solution, Rep. Prog. Phys. 66, 1735-1782.
4. Elodie Sanfins et al (2014). Size-Dependent Effects of Nanoparticles on Enzymes in the Blood Coagulation Cascade, Nano Lett. 14, 4736-4744.
5. Harry J. Gilbert (2010). The Biochemistry and Structural Biology of Plant Cell Wall Deconstruction, Plant Physiology 153, pp. 444-455.
6. Kim E. Sapsford et al (2011). Analyzing Nanomaterial Bioconjugates: A Review of Current and Emerging Purification and Characterization Techniques, Anal. Chem. 83, 4453-4488.
7. Li Shang et al (2014). Nanoparticles Interacting with Proteins and Cells: A Systematic Study of Protein Surface Charge Effects, Adv. Mater. Interfaces 1, 1300079.
8. Maxim V. Petoukhov (2013). Applications of small-angle X-ray scattering to biomacromolecular solutions, The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 45 , 429- 437.
9. Xiao-Xia Xia (2010). Native-sized recombinant spider silk protein produced in metabolically engineered results in a strong fiber, PNAS 107, 32, 14059-14063.

About Author / Additional Info:
Research Scholar at Department of Biosciences & Technology,
Defence Institute of Advanced Technology, Pune.
Research area: Structural & computational Biology and Bioinformatics