Tour de Lab
Our laboratory niche
Every one in the lab has full 1.2m bench for making scientific dreams true. The total of 12 benches fill a "typical" biochemistry eco system in its full beauty - and representing a full range of scientific working types (purely-chaotic, orderly-chaotic, regular, crystal-clean, etc). back
At 4C in the Cold
The cold room is typically used for initial steps during protein purification, when working with tricky proteins and for storing the most favorite buffer solutions. In terms of cell opening, different people have different preferences, contributing to the Soni-Cators, French-Pressers, Thaw-Freezers. For testing protein integrity, complex formation and stability, and establishing best buffer conditions, we often use the Ettan system connected to a Multi-Angle Light Scattering (MALS) apparatus. Moreover, we have installed a series of fridge-mounted FPLC/Purifier systems, which are present in an almost 1-1 ratio to lab members. back
Our standard equipment
Our most often used equipment includes fluorimeter, photometer, nanodrop, PC (apparently, we are not a Mac lab), etc - to keep all this in good shape and account for the different degrees of cleanliness, we have a strict weekly cleaning rotation and rigorous equipment responsibilities. back
We have a small cell culture laboratory that we use for protein expression as well as for doing simple Cell Biology experiments. Nothing exciting, but still a good-to-have. In particular, to prepare samples to be forwarded to the fancy Biooptics facility at the IMP (see below). back
We are fortunate oversee a machine park allowing cutting-edge biochemical experiments. Indeed, the design of biochemical experiments is naturally very variable. Importantly, at the IMP, there are (almost) no borders to set up any experiment that you would like to perform - which comes with the cost that there are also (almost) no excuses.
Machines commonly used by lab members include the following:
- MALS: Multi Angle Light Scattering (online determination of native masses of protein complexes during gelfiltration runs)
- Stargazer: plate-reader designed to study the thermal stability of proteins using differential static light scattering. the instrument measures the amount of aggregated protein in a 384-well plate as a function of rising temperature.
- DLS: Dynamic Light Scattering - a technology that is used to measure hydrodynamic sizes, polydispersities and aggregation effects of protein samples.
- ITC: Isothermal Titration Calorimetry - a pretty expensive thermometer that is used to quantitatively determine the binding affinity (Ka), enthalpy changes (dH), and binding stoichiometry (n) of the interaction between two or more molecules in solution. in case you have enough protein and sufficient binding affinities, THE technique. in case you don't - try the next one ...
- MST: MicroScale thermophoresis - detects interactions between any kind of biomolecules providing a large application range, from ions and small molecules to large multi-protein complexes. Thermophoresis, the directed movement of particles in temperature gradients, is not only dependent on the size, but also on the charge and the hydration shell of the molecules of interest. Advantages: suitable for low binding affinities and economical in terms of sample amounts.
- PHERAstar: as stated on the homepage "The ultimate multi-mode microplate reader for research and High-Throughput Screening."
Probably, the technical heart of our group ... comprising the following items:
- Robotics for crystallization: We have a (1) Tecan robot for pipetting any kind of precipitant vs additive vs pH screen and two robots setting up the crystallization plates in nano-liter format. Depending on the crystallization method, people may either use the (2) Phenix robot or the (3) Mosquito, the latter one in particular when interested in different seeding procedures.
- Crystal farm: To follow the appearance and growth of crystals we use the Imaging system from Rigaku. The two hotels at 4C and 19C offer luxury suites for 500 crystallization plates each.
- X-ray generator/detector: We use the classic Martinsried' setup comprising a Rigaku FR-X generator (the most intense home laboratory X-ray source available today with a focused beam size of about 0.07 mm) and a MarResearch Image Plate. The setup is comparable with some second generation synchrotron beamlines - except for tuning wavelengths, of course - such that we can perform extensive crystal screenings prior to synchrotron trips and record full data sets in-house. Nowadays not very popular - but for us extremely valuable.
- Model building: We have a small computer center/room with 4 model-building stations. In addition to a great computing infrastructure provided by the IMP/IMBA IT department (including, for example, state-of-the-art cluster computing), we have setup a complete crystallographic software suite fulfilling everyone's wish, even the older generation, which still appreciate to build their protein models in stereo and using dials.
At the synchrotron
From time to time, most often being extremely excited, we travel to Hamburg (DESY), Grenoble (ESRF) and Zuerich (SLS) to collect high-resolution diffraction data. In addition to visiting very nice places, the rapid-access to these synchrotrons is essential for our work. Being a member of AC-DC (Austrian Crystallographic Diffraction Consortium), for example, grants us regular access to the ESRF, our connection to Boehringer Ingelheim and former colleagues to DESY and SLS. back
Time to talk
In brief, we have a Coffee Club (a tribute to Vienna, discussion of most recent findings in subgroups, with lab books and a cup of coffee on a side), a Progress Report (with Powerpoint presentations summarizing the last 3-4 months, typically in combination with a rich breakfast) and a Journal Club (organized by students and postdocs). In addition, we have two lab retreats per year (one "big" outside Austria and one internal combined with local sightseeing, as for example a visit in a nearby, famous chocolate factory). Finally, each group at IMP/IMBA is responsible to organize one of the weekly "beer hours". Our group somehow became famous for serving the best hotdog and caipirinha in town, often in connection with prominent sport events. back
Is the list complete? Any equipment missing? We are indeed continuously looking for state-of-the-art technology that would give us an advantage in characterizing and working with complex protein assemblies. Would be great to install new technologies suiting your interest!