Next step is establishment of the Knowledgebase where researchers can search for and submit structural information.

The Protein Structure Initiative (PSI) has established efficient pipelines for determining the 3-D shapes of proteins and is now creating new mechanisms for sharing the resources it has developed with the scientific community. The 10-year PSI effort, which started in 2000 and is sponsored by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), funded a materials repository in September. Next year, it will create an information hub where researchers can search for and submit structural information.

“The first five years of the PSI were devoted to developing methods, technologies, and pipelines to speed the structure production process and reduce its cost,” says NIGMS director Jeremy M. Berg, Ph.D. “The products of these efforts have been available to the scientific community, but the new resources should dramatically enhance accessibility.”  

The Harvard Institute of Proteomics will operate the PSI-Materials Repository (PSI-MR). With $5.4 million in funding over five years and under the direction of Joshua LaBaer, M.D., Ph.D., the new PSI-MR will store and ship PSI-generated clones, which can be used to make specific proteins for studies on their structure and function. Researchers will be able to order clones.

To date, the PSI research centers have produced more than 100,000 clones. Norvell expects the current centers to produce a total of 20,000 clones annually. “Producing clones is an essential and often time-consuming step in the protein structure determination process,” notes PSI Director John Norvell, Ph.D. “By centralizing the availability of these materials, we put valuable resources at researchers’ fingertips that can free up time to explore important scientific questions.”

In fall 2007, the PSI will establish a Knowledgebase that will serve as a headquarters for structural information generated by its centers. For every protein, scientists will be able to find the best available information about the structure and biological function. The Knowledgebase also will offer experimental details about each stage of the protein structure determination process, regardless of whether the structure was successfully determined. Information about current PSI proteins being solved will be listed. In addition to searching these details, scientists will be able to submit requests for protein structures they’d like the PSI to determine.

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