Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the study of metallobiomolecules requires access to a variety of sophisticated research instrumentation. In addition to standard biochemical and molecular biological equipment that is used to study any biological system, the detailed study of metal-containing proteins often requires specialized spectroscopic and biophysical instrumentation, as well as more demanding computational approaches. Recognizing these special needs, the CMS has established the Metallobiochemistry Research Instrumentation Laboratory (MRIL), designed to provide the instruments needed for virtually any imaginable metallobiomolecule characterization. This comprehensive core instrumentation facility represents a unique self-contained research resource designed to enhance the interdisciplinary nature of the training environment. With modules for molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, and computational biochemistry within the MRIL, and satellite facilities elsewhere on campus and on neighboring campuses (Emory), we operate this core facility as a "virtual facility" providing instrumentation and expertise to support collaborative research in metallobiochemistry. An organizational chart describing the facilities encompassed by the MRIL is provided below:
The strength of the MRIL is its provision of a diverse array of capabilities that essentially allow a researcher to study a selected (metallo)biochemical system from its discovery and purification (or cloning and expression of its gene), through initial biochemical and biophysical characterization, all the way to complete electronic and molecular structural characterization. As our paradigm, purification of a metalloenzyme in the Biochemistry Module (and its associated satellite facilities the Fermentation Plant and the High-Temperature Enzyme Purification facility) and characterization of it using the Biophysics Module (and satellite facilities offering x-ray absorption spectroscopy, x-ray crystallography, freeze-quench kinetics, Mössbauer spectroscopy, ENDOR spectroscopy, and multifield saturation magnetization) combined with complementary understanding of the enzyme mechanism using the Computation Module (and the satellite Molecular Graphics Laboratory) provides the driving force for cloning, site-directed mutagenesis, and overexpression in the Molecular Biology Module (with the help of the satellite Molecular Genetics Instrument Facility) to engineer an enzyme better suited for targeted biocatalysis. The heart of the MRIL is the Biophysics Module that provides access to virtually every major physical technique used for characterizing metallobiomolecules. This is possible because of the expertise available within the CMS in these techniques. Within the CMS, we have internationally recognized experts in magnetic circular dichroism spectroscopy, resonance Raman spectroscopy, Mössbauer spectroscopy, x-ray absorption spectroscopy, saturation magnetization techniques, biological mass spectrometry, and macromolecular x-ray crystallography.