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A survey based on the Italian scientists devoted to Biocrystallography provides a picture of a very much alive and productive community that dates back to the 1960s.

After the pioneering start of L. Mazzarella in Napoli, a laboratory was established in the 1970s by M. Mammi in Padova, followed in the 1980s by A. Coda, the founder of the crystallographic school in Pavia.

Nowadays there are 17 academic and 2 industrial well established, dynamic and motivated research groups located in: Roma [1], Milano [2], Napoli [3], Trieste [4], Siena-Firenze [5], Bari [6], Bologna [7], Genova [8], Pavia [9], Padova [10], and Verona [11]. The groups based in Pavia and in Padova deserve a special tribute for their pivotal role in training many Italian researchers who are now working as leading scientists in the field of Structural Biology in Italy and in various foreign Institutions.

The current focus of the laboratories is on proteins of medical and biotechnological interest.
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Tyrosine post-translational modification in a haemoglobin-like protein from Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Milani, M., Savard, P.Y., Ouellet, H., Ascenzi, P., Guertin, M., Bolognesi, M, O. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, 100, 2003, 5766-5771)

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Structure of Bacillus Pumilus AcetylXylan Esterase: a carbohydrate degrading enzyme (I. Krastanova, G. Degrassi, A. Cassetta, V. Venturi, D. Lamba, unpublished result)

Recent results include structural and functional studies on heme-proteins [1a,1b,3a,8]; DNA/PNA [3b], DNA-drugs and DNA-proteins complexes [1c,4a]; collagen models [3a]; metalloenzymes involved in denitrification and radical protection [4b,5,8]; flavodoxins [2b], plant, viral and bacterial pathogenic proteins [1a,1d,2c,5,10]; carbohydrate processing enzymes [4b]; hydrophobic ligand-binding proteins [10,11]; metallo proteins [4a,5]; animal and vegetal lectins [11]; protein kinases [10]; proteins involved in NAD biosynthesis and iron homeostasis [9]; proteins involved in the coagulation and fibrinolysis pathways [3b,4b,8]; protein complexes involved in the regulation of mitosis [2a], in neuronal differentiation [2a], in immuno response [2c], in amyloidosis [8], and in muscle contraction [4b]; cell activating receptors involved in natural citotoxicity [8]; target-based drug design proteins involved in various human diseases [1a,1c,1d,2d,3a,5], in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases [4b,9]; proteins involved in the biomineralization processes [7]. Research activities also include the growth of biological macromolecules crystals on engineered surfaces [7]; macromolecular crystallisation under microgravity on the International Space Station [3a]; the use of soft X-rays as a phasing tool [4b]; direct methods in macromolecular crystallography [6].

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Structure of Human Monoamine Oxidase B linked to a membrane lipid double layer (C. Binda, P. Newton-Vinson, F. Hubalek, D. E. Edmondson, A. Mattevi, Nature Structural Biology, 9, 2002, 22-26)

[1] a) Dip. di Scienze Biochimiche, Univ. Roma “La Sapienza” (maurizio.brunori@uniroma1.it); b) Istituto di Biologia e Patologia Molecolari, CNR (emilia.chiancone@uniroma1.it); c) Istituto di Cristallografia, CNR (giovanni.ughetto@ic.cnr.it); d) Merck Sharp&Dohme Italia S.p.A (stefania_dimarco@merck.com).

[2] a) Istituto Oncologico Europeo (andrea.musacchio@ieo-research.it); b) Istituto di Chimica Farmaceutica e Tossicologica, Univ. Milano (gabriella.bombieri@unimi.it); c) Biocrystallography Unit, Dibit Fondazione San Raffaele, Milano (degano.massimo@hsr.it); d) Pharmacia Italia SpA – Pfeizer Group Inc. (maria.flocco@pharmacia.com ).

[3] a) Dip. di Chimica, Univ. Napoli “Federico II” (mazzarella@chemistry.unina.it); b) Istituto di Biostrutture e Bioimmagini, CNR (pedone@chemistry.unina.it).

[4] a) Dip. di Scienze Chimiche & Centro di Eccellenza in Biocristallografia, Univ. Trieste (geremia@univ.trieste.it); b) Laboratorio di Biologia Strutturale, Sincrotrone Trieste SCpA & Istituto di Cristallografia, CNR (kristina.djinovic@elettra.trieste.it, doriano.lamba@ic.cnr.it).

[5] Dip. di Chimica, Univ.Siena (mangani@unisi.it) & Dip. di Chimica, Univ.Firenze (marta.ferraroni@unifi.it).

[6] Istituto di Cristallografia, CNR (carmelo.giacovazzo@ic.cnr.it).

[7] Dip. di Chimica, Univ. Bologna (falini@ciam.unibo.it).

[8] Dip. di Fisica & Center of Excellence for Biomedical Research, Univ. Genova (bolognes@fisica.unige.it).

[9] Dip. di Genetica e Microbiologia, Univ. Pavia (mattevi@ipvgen.unipv.it).

[10] Dip. di Chimica Organica, Univ. Padova & Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine (giuseppe.zanotti@unipd.it).

[11] Laboratorio di Biocristallografia, Dip. Scientifico e Tecnologico, Univ. Verona (monaco@sci.univr.it).