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A platform for the study of biomolecular interaction

La Cartuja Island, nestled between two arms of the Guadalquivir River in central Seville’s Triana district, is home to some of Spain’s leading research institutes. Denizens like the Doñana Biological Station, the National Center for Accelerators, the Institute for Microelectronics and the Andalusian Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine Center all call the Cartuja93 Technological Park home. The Isla de la Cartuja Research Center is also where the Biomolecular Interaction Platform (BIP) a core facility that houses multidisciplinary technologies and methodologies, is based.

The institute integrates technologies such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Surface Plasmon Resonance Imaging (SPRi), Isothermal Titration Calorimetry (ITC), Differential Scanning Calorimetry (DSC), Dynamic & Static Light Scattering, Circular Dichroism (CD) or Mass Spectrometry (MALDI-TOF). It has a “multidisciplinary focus that allows us to approach biological problems through different techniques, and gather complementary information that way,” as Dr Irene Díaz-Moreno, principal investigator of the Biointeractomics Group of the Institute for Chemical Research of cicCartuja, and user of this core facility, told Biocores.

NMR Spectrometer with cryoprobe

The Platform’s Nuclear Magnetic Resonance spectrometer. Source: cicCartuja.

BIP’s activities reside within an area of great interest for scientists who work in the fields of chemistry, biochemistry and biomedicine. For example, the services offered by the Andalusian facility have made it possible to complete the structural and functional characterization of cytochrome c when it undergoes post-translation modifications related with the development of various pathologies. These studies, conducted by the Biointeractomics Group have been described in an article published in the journal Chemistry. Thanks to its offering of scientific techniques, BIP was a fundamental player in this research. “After completing the training through different programs and workshops, I know and routinely use the techniques and equipment of ITC, DSC and SPRi. In fact, I used the range of methodological approaches available at BIP for my PhD studies,” states Alejandra Guerra-Castellano, lead author of this publication. According to this researcher, BIP provides access to a diversified range of state-of-the-art technologies, while also providing external users with training.

Another example of the use of the Biomolecular Interaction Platform to tackle complex scientific problems can be found in two recent publications in the journals Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA and Nucleic Acid Research. In these studies, the Biointeractomics Group used ITC, SPRi and RMN techniques to discover a new network of interactions that control the delicate balance between cell life and death, in addition to understanding the mechanisms that regulate the processes for repair of damage caused in the DNA of human and plant cells. The technologies provided by this core facility were indispensable to carry out these studies.

MALDI-TOF Mass Spectrometer service Source: cicCartuja

The service was created thanks to, among other forms of support, the Scientific-Technological Infrastructure Project Subprogram (2010 call), co-financed with FEDER funds from the Ministry of Science and Innovation and Stakeholder Incentives Program of the Andalusian System of Knowledge (2010 call). According to Dr. Díaz-Moreno, the uniqueness of the equipment available at the BIP has made it possible for this core facility to be included in the ARBRE (Association of Resources for Biophysical Research in Europe) European Platform and in the COST CA15126 activity entitled “Between Atom and Cell: Integrating Molecular Biophysics Approaches for Biology and Healthcare (MOBIEU)”, recently approved and financed by the European Commission.

For anyone interested in using the scientific equipment that BIP makes available for use by the research community, it is worth noting that this core facility is located in the cicCartuja, a public-private center developed by the University of Seville, the Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) and the Autonomous Government of Andalusia. These services can also be of use to industry. Proof of this is the impact that BIP has had in production sectors, working with such companies as Agromedina, Viveros California, Agroaxix or AglarisCell.