Biolution presents new animation introducing the complexities of gene expression

Monday, 06 May 2019 01:52

In a new animation borne out of a fruitful collaboration between scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) and the visualization team at biolution, structural biologist Clemens Plaschka invites you on a journey into the nucleus of the eukaryotic cell to discover the secrets of regulated gene expression – drawing on some very recently published data. The video was produced using the visualization platform of biolution developed with advice by scientists of the IMP and is free to use for non commercial purposes like teaching: 

The one-way street of genetic information flow has been dubbed by Francis Crick the “central dogma of biology”: DNA makes RNA and RNA makes protein. While this simplified view of gene expression is very instructive, the devil lies in the details. But these details lie hidden to molecular biologists in the nanoworld, stretching the imagination of even the most experienced specialists. The animation now released is borne by a partnership between structural biologist Clemens Plaschka (IMP) and the visualization team of biolution. It shows a recently published transcription initiation complex forming at the start of a gene to recruit the RNA polymerase and should provide an instructive overview of the complex interactions required to activate gene expression.

How important insights into the spatial arrangement of molecular structures can be is illustrated by the discovery of the DNA double helix, which famously revealed many aspects of the DNA’s functionality starting from its semi-conservative replication to serving as a template for mRNA. In recent years, structural biology has been revolutionised by powerful computer technologies and the advent of cryo-electron microscopy, which now produces high resolution data of molecular machines. Aided by these advances, researchers are now able to observe their molecule of choice on an atomic scale and reveal the inner workings of biological processes. These complex data are deposited in dedicated data bases accessible for anyone, but handling these data is not a simple task. In recent months, biolution has collaborated with scientists of the IMP to develop a visualization pipeline to generate instructive animations meeting the highest standards of scientific accuracy.

Inspired by the new advances in structural biology, biolution’s scientific visualization pipeline is designed to harness the capabilities of commercial software packages to animate scientific data deposited in public data bases. It provides an overview useful to anyone interested in molecular processes, from students to investors and from patients to medical doctors. biolution can only do this in a team of gifted media designers with high technical expertise and scientists rooted in the scientific community aware of the current thinking in the field.

“Research in the life sciences is progressing at an enormous pace, shining a light on complex cellular processes. Interacting with these researchers for years has equipped our team with the skills to bridge the chasm which separates the expert from the rest of the world”, says Stefan Grünert, managing director of biolution, and adds: “As an IMP-alumnus, I generally enjoy the very close interactions here at the Vienna BioCenter. Nevertheless, we feel extremely lucky about the collaboration with Clemens Plaschka, because he has contributed to some pivotal studies on the structure and function of very large and dynamic complexes visualized in our animation.” Biolution’s managing directors Iris and Stefan Grünert have backgrounds in molecular biology themselves and plan to take the company further into the scientific visualization field.

All visualisations by biolution listed on their website and social media channels are free to use for non-commercial purposes like teaching, if biolution is named.

Published in Mitgliedsnews