Nature 450, 973-982 (13 December 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06523; Published online 12 December 2007

The molecular sociology of the cell

Carol V. Robinson1, Andrej Sali2 & Wolfgang Baumeister3


Proteomic studies have yielded detailed lists of the proteins present in a cell. Comparatively little is known, however, about how these proteins interact and are spatially arranged within the 'functional modules' of the cell: that is, the 'molecular sociology' of the cell. This gap is now being bridged by using emerging experimental techniques, such as mass spectrometry of complexes and single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, to complement traditional biochemical and biophysical methods. With the development of integrative computational methods to exploit the data obtained, such hybrid approaches will uncover the molecular architectures, and perhaps even atomic models, of many protein complexes. With these structures in hand, researchers will be poised to use cryo-electron tomography to view protein complexes in action within cells, providing unprecedented insights into protein-interaction networks.

  1. Department of Chemistry, Lensfield Road, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1EW, UK.
  2. Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, and California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences, Byers Hall, Suite 503B, University of California at San Francisco, 1700 4th Street, San Francisco, California 94158, USA.
  3. Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, Department of Molecular Structural Biology, Am Klopferspitz 18, D-82152 Martinsried, Germany.


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