Molecule of the Month
Working with the outreach team at the RCSB Protein Data Bank is one of the great pleasures of my life. In the “Molecule of the Month,” I get to explore a new topic each month and share what I have found with you. Please visit PDB-101 at the RCSB PDB to see the many materials and activities that we have to offer!
Molecules in Living Cells
Since the early 1990’s, I have been working with a type of illustration that shows portions of living cells magnified so that you can see individual molecules. I try to make these illustrations as accurate as possible, using information from atomic structure analysis, electron microscopy, and biochemical analysis to get the proper number of molecules, in the proper place, and with the proper size and shape.
Many of these illustrations are free for download and use through a gallery at the RCSB Protein Data Bank. You can also take a look at my book “The Machinery of Life,” which includes illustrations of portions of bacterial and human cells.
I have described this work in several publications, including:
- Inside a Living Cell (1991) Trends in Biochemical Sciences 16, 203-206.
- Visual Methods from Atoms to Cells (2005) Structure 13, 347-354.
- Articles in “Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education” about the E. coli, mitochondrion, neuromuscular synapse, cellular panorama, and virus images from “The Machinery of Life.”
- Cellular Landscapes in Watercolor (2016) Journal of Biocommunication 40, 22-26.
- From Atoms to Cells: Using Mesoscale Landscapes to Construct Visual Narratives (2018) Journal of Molecular Biology 430, 3954-3968.
I’ve also had the chance to work on some fun projects:
We are currently moving this work into 3D, creating models of entire cells for use in research applications. Take a look at the CCSB site for more information on the CellPACK suite of programs and things we’re doing with it.