- The Japan Academy
- Proceedings of the Japan Academy, Series B (ISSN:03862208)
- vol.91, no.9, pp.447-468, 2015-11-11 (Released:2015-11-11)
Electron crystallography is especially useful for studying the structure and function of membrane proteins — key molecules with important functions in neural and other cells. Electron crystallography is now an established technique for analyzing the structures of membrane proteins in lipid bilayers that closely simulate their natural biological environment. Utilizing cryo-electron microscopes with helium-cooled specimen stages that were developed through a personal motivation to understand the functions of neural systems from a structural point of view, the structures of membrane proteins can be analyzed at a higher than 3 Å resolution. This review covers four objectives. First, I introduce the new research field of structural physiology. Second, I recount some of the struggles involved in developing cryo-electron microscopes. Third, I review the structural and functional analyses of membrane proteins mainly by electron crystallography using cryo-electron microscopes. Finally, I discuss multifunctional channels named “adhennels” based on structures analyzed using electron and X-ray crystallography.