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IUCr 1993 Triennial Report - Commission on Biological Macromolecules

The most obvious feature of the last three years is the continual acceleration in the structural determination of macromolecules - there have been some spectacular successes which will have immense impact on biochemistry, biology and medicine. This has rested on improved computing and graphics technology, on advances in crystallographic software (especially in the area of data processing and phasing calculations) and on developments in data-collection equipment, particularly image plates and the growing availability and refinements of the synchrotron centres.

There has been generally good progress with the practice of depositing crystallographic data at Brookhaven, which is now widely accepted by the community and mostly recognized by scientific journals as a requisite for publication. With the flood of data now being published and deposited, expansions of resources and techniques (including validation tests) are being implemented at Brookhaven.

Meetings have been held in the USA and Europe to coordinate policies and compare ideas and practices in database usage and development. Another change in the offing is the introduction of the CIF format for use in macromolecular structures. Its ready acceptance by the small-molecule crystallographic community has been noted and it is hoped that the advantages of the CIF will soon be absorbed by the macromolecular community. The contribution of the IUCr Advisory Committee on the CIF has been very important in defining practices in development and how to implement them.

The publication of macromolecular structures is still being carried out in a wide variety of journals. The arrival of Acta Crystallographica Section D will meet a need for describing crystallographic methods and reporting detailed structures and comparisons, and will serve as a forum for reporting meetings, publishing conference proceedings and for commissioning articles of general interest.

The growth in the number of structures determined by NMR and the extension of the method to molecules of larger molecular weight is complementing X-ray crystallographic research. In addition, the NMR method is characterizing macromolecular solution properties, mobilities and solvent interactions with remarkable precision. This information again adds importantly to the crystal studies. The atomic coordinates of NMR derived structures can now be deposited at Brookhaven; discussions are in train as to the best method of depositing these data.

 21 April 1993                              G. G. DODSON, Chairman
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