Structure Biology

Last changed: 18 September 2023

We have a strong research base within Molecular Biotechnology. Biological macromolecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and other cellular metabolites are studied, developed and modified for different biotechnological applications.

Structure Biology at Department of Molecular Sciences joins the teams lead by Mats Sandgren, Jerry Ståhlberg, Gustav Nestor and Sabine Sampels in a highly collaborative research environment. We study molecular structure and function of biological macromolecules (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids) with X-ray crystallography, Cryo-EM, NMR spectroscopy, supercritical CO2 extraction, FTIR spectroscopy and other techniques.

Our groups are strategically located at SLU Biocenter in Uppsala, a modern center covering the entire scale from fundamental to applied research, in collaborative initiatives within the areas of biomolecules, microorganisms, plants and food, with a common mission: “Science and Education for Sustainable Life”.

One major theme is basic and applied research of biological reaction systems, enzymatic and microbial, for biotechnical applications for conversion of biomass, e.g. from agriculture and forestry, for production of renewable fuels, chemicals, materials, food and feed components, to increase usability of renewable plant biomass and thereby contribute to reduction of fossil resource usage and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Ståhlberg and Sandgren have >30 years track record of publications in high-impact journals, including JACS, PNAS, JMB and JBC, on structure-function of key enzymes from fungi and bacteria that degrade cellulose and other polysaccharides. The results pave the way for improved enzymes and industrial processes through enzyme engineering and genome mining.

Gustav Nestor’s research is focused on NMR method development and NMR studies on carbohydrates, carbohydrate-binding proteins and carbohydrate-active enzymes. He is involved in several collaborative projects using NMR spectroscopy on biomolecules.

Sabine Sampels is expert on lipids, oxidation and antioxidants, with main focus on the quality of fish, meat and products thereof through the whole food chain. Sustainable production of food with high nutritional value is an overarching research goal.

An important area is basic studies of the structure and function of proteins, both within and outside cells, including isolation or recombinant expression, purification and structural determination of biological catalysts, enzymes, and characterization of their function in biosynthesis and biodegradation in nature.

Structure determination with X-ray crystallography is a core competence and we have deposited over 100 structures at the Protein Data Bank (PDB). Recently we have also started to expand into Cryo-EM and more NMR for macromolecular structure studies.