From EMBL: “Revealing structure of nuclear pore’s inner ring”

EMBL European Molecular Biology Laboratory bloc

European Molecular Biology Laboratory

14 April 2016
Sonia Furtado Neves, Science

The architecture of the nuclear pore. The outer ring is colored in orange and blue, whereas the newly characterized inner ring is seen in green and lemon. Credit: Jan Kosinski/EMBL

Study published today in Science sheds light on structure of nuclear pore complex, which plays a crucial role in controlling molecular traffic to a cell’s nucleus

It was a 3D puzzle with over 1000 pieces, with only a rather fuzzy outline as a guide. But scientists at EMBL have now put enough pieces in place to see the big picture. In a study* published today in Science, they present their latest findings, bringing the nuclear pore complex into focus.

The nuclear pore is a passage into the cell’s nucleus. A typical cell has hundreds of these pores, playing a crucial role in controlling the hundred of thousands of molecules that enter and exit this compartment every minute. Nuclear pores are used by many viruses to inject their genetic material into a host and they are known to change when cells become cancerous, so knowing how they work is important. Scientists understood many of the components of the nuclear pore, but exactly how those building blocks fitted together was unclear.

“The nuclear pore is the biggest, most complicated protein complex in a human cell. We now understand how it is structured,” says Martin Beck, who led the work at EMBL. “This is a very important first step towards understanding what actually happens to nuclear pores in cancer, during ageing, and in other conditions.”

The nuclear pore is composed of three layered rings: a nuclear ring facing the nucleus; a cytoplasmic ring facing the rest of the cell; and an inner ring in between those two. Having already pieced together how the building blocks of the nuclear and cytoplasmic rings are arranged, Martin Beck’s group at EMBL have now worked out the arrangement of the pieces that form the inner ring.

“Surprisingly, we found that although it is made of different building blocks, the inner ring has the same basic architecture as the other two rings,” says Shyamal Mosalaganti from EMBL, who studied the ring using cryo-electron microscopy. “This very complicated structure is built using simple principles . We were able to uncover that because we interweaved a lot of different techniques here.”

Access mp4 video here .


Molecular architecture of the inner ring scaffold of the human nuclear pore complex

Science team:

Jan Kosinski1,*, Shyamal Mosalaganti1,*, Alexander von Appen1,*, Roman Teimer2, Amanda L. DiGuilio3, William Wan1, Khanh Huy Bui4, Wim J.H. Hagen1, John A. G. Briggs1,5, Joseph S. Glavy3, Ed Hurt2, Martin Beck1,5,†


1Structural and Computational Biology Unit, European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Heidelberg, Germany.
2Biochemistry Center of Heidelberg University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 328, D-69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
3Department of Chemistry, Chemical Biology and Biomedical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology, 507 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, USA.
4Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
5Cell Biology and Biophysics Unit, EMBL, Heidelberg, Germany.

↵†Corresponding author. E-mail:

↵* These authors contributed equally to this work.

See the full article here .

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EMBL European Molecular Biology Laboratory campus

EMBL is Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences, with more than 80 independent groups covering the spectrum of molecular biology. EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary – its 1800 employees, from many nations, operate across five sites: the main laboratory in Heidelberg, and outstations in Grenoble; Hamburg; Hinxton, near Cambridge (the European Bioinformatics Institute), and Monterotondo, near Rome. Founded in 1974, EMBL is an inter-governmental organisation funded by public research monies from its member states. The cornerstones of EMBL’s mission are: to perform basic research in molecular biology; to train scientists, students and visitors at all levels; to offer vital services to scientists in the member states; to develop new instruments and methods in the life sciences and actively engage in technology transfer activities, and to integrate European life science research. Around 200 students are enrolled in EMBL’s International PhD programme. Additionally, the Laboratory offers a platform for dialogue with the general public through various science communication activities such as lecture series, visitor programmes and the dissemination of scientific achievements.