Meeting report

International School of Crystallography

45th Course – Present and Future Methods for Biomolecular Crystallography

Erice, Italy, May 2012

[Erice logo]

The event was held in Erice, Italy, at the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture. The course included a total of 141 participants from 31 countries. The main objective of the Course was to equip the next generation of scientists with a deep understanding of the tools they need to solve challenging structural projects. The students were largely from universities (PhD students, post docs and young researchers), with researchers from chemical and pharmaceutical companies. Poster preview sessions and several other general events organized during the day and in the evenings provided several opportunities for students and teachers to mingle and have many constructive discussions, which resulted in the determination of at least three new structures during the school.

The lecturers were chosen from world leaders in the field of structural biology, and all made great efforts to present cutting-edge science at a level accessible to participants with limited experience. Most presented two lectures, one focused on methodology and the other illustrating the structural insights that can be obtained using their methods; many lecturers also presented a demo or tutorial.

[Erice participants] Participants at the International School of Crystallography 45th Course in Erice, Italy.

A total of 56 lectures were scheduled, including 7 chosen from the submitted poster abstracts. In addition, there were 4 software demos and 11 different tutorials (each repeated twice). The participants presented a total of 90 posters in two poster sessions, each of which was preceded by short oral presentations. The course concentrated on single-crystal X-ray diffraction, covering all aspects of structure determination, from protein production (Stephen Kent, Todd Yeates) to crystal preparation (Martin Caffrey) and data collection and analysis (Sean McSweeney, Kay Diederichs, Elspeth Garman, Tatiana Petrova and Dominika Borek), to structure solution (Randy Read, Isabel Uson, Zsbyszek Dauter, Tim Gruene, Felix Frolow, Clemens Vornhein and Vladimir Lunin) and validation (Jane Richardson and Zbyszek Otwinowsky). Different approaches for solving the structures were also presented by Tom Terwilliger, Tassos Perrakis, Paul Emsley, Pavel Afonine, Garib Murshodov and Axel Brunger. In addition, the horizons were broadened with a number of complementary approaches, including X-ray free electron lasers, neutron diffraction and small-angle X-ray scattering (Nobuo Niimura, Petra Fromme, Pierre Thibault, Frank DiMaio, Tatiana Latycheskaia and Dmitri Svergun). Jaime Prilusky showed how the structure obtained can be presented to the world through the Protopedia website, and challenged the participants to prepare their own Proteopedia pages during the course.

A number of speakers presented the structural results of their research: complement proteins (Piet Gros), Z-DNA at 0.55Å resolution (Zbyszek Dauter), enzymes mutated in lysosomal storage diseases (Randy Read), viral membrane fusion proteins (Felix Rey), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (Andrea Mattevi), proteins involved in Ca-triggered vesicle fusion (Axel Brunger), retropepsin (Mariusz Jaskolski), autotaxin (Tassos Perrakis) and the eukaryotic ribosome (Sergey Melnikov).

As always, the school had participants from all over the world, this year with a particularly large contingent of young scientists from eastern European and South American countries, where the field has recently begun to develop. The international composition of the school, as well as the friendly and informal atmosphere of Erice, played an important role in facilitating communication between students and world-renowned professors, which will foster further scientific collaborations.

[Erice poster winners] Poster prize winners at the International School of Crystallography 45th Course in Erice, Italy.

Several prizes were awarded during the course. The prize for best poster presentation was given to Denise Cavalcante Hissa (Federal U. of Ceara, Graz, Austria), with a special mention to Andrea Pica (U. of Naples 'Federico II', Italy); the winners for the best Protopedia page were Wee Lee Chan (U. of Cambridge, UK) and Tomas Klumper (Masaryk U., Czech Republic); the Lodovico Prize was awarded to Abhay Kotecha (U. of Oxford, UK) and a special mention was awarded to Marcus Fislage (Vrije U. Brussel, Belgium).

After the school, a large number of participants gave feedback by filling in a detailed questionnaire. They were unanimous in agreeing that a similar meeting should be held in the future, with the vast majority (99%) believing it should be held within the next 4 years. The majority considered the course to have been very successful in most of its objectives (score 91/100). There was some very helpful feedback that will be used to improve the future courses

Annalisa Guerri