Protein Characterization and Crystallization Facility (http://pccf.usask.ca/)

Many faculty members within the College of Medicine are involved in research toward understanding of a variety of diseases at the molecular level. This research encompasses facets of human health and disease ranging from bacterial infections, chronic diseases to cancer and psychiatric illness. Many of these investigations require expression and characterization of proteins of interest to the researchers. The instrumentation for biophysical characterization of proteins is expensive and requires a specialized knowledge not only to operate the instruments but, most importantly, to interpret the acquired data.

In order to provide expanded support for researchers whose research requires or benefits from investigation of proteins in vitro the College of Medicine has established the Protein Characterization and Crystallization Facility (PCCF). The concept of this facility is not only to assemble the instrumentation required for protein cloning and expression, purification, characterization and crystallization but also to assure the expertise to aid the researchers in all these steps. The immediate and primary users of PCCF are the members of the PRISM Centre. However, the PCCF is open to all U of S faculty within the available instrument and personnel capacity.

The focus of the PCC Facility is on techniques specific for protein characterization and crystallization. The instruments already present include the shaker-incubators for bacterial cell cultures, the liquid handling robot (Biomek FX) for high throughput cloning and small-scale expression testing, dynamic light scattering instrument with a plate reader, crystallization robots (Gryphon and Oryx), crystallization plate hotel (CrystalFarm), isothermal titration calorimeter (nanoITC). Instruments that are on order include circular dichroism spectrometer (Chirascan Plus) and crystallization solution mixer.

PCCF is geared toward the needs of PRISM members, predominantly biologists and biochemists, and is localized in the D-wing of the Health Sciences Building in close proximity to the majority of its current and potential users. The main emphasis of PCCF is on expanding the use of biophysical methods to study proteins. While the Ph.D.-level personnel will help with setting up the experiment, their more important contribution will be to help with interpretation of the resulting data. This is a key feature of PCCF since most users are not experts in the available techniques and may have difficulty in extracting meaningful information from the obtained data.

The PRISM members will also continue accessing the instrumentation at the Saskatchewan Structural Sciences Centre (SSSC), such as the 600 MHz NMR spectrometer, mass spectrometry, and potentially the EPR instrumentation. PCCF and SSSC established already a fruitful collaboration to assure providing the best access to unique instrumentation for UofS researchers. Our joint efforts to obtain funds for instrument upgrades and replacement through CFI was very successful. The CFI grant awarded in the 2012 competition will fund among others the X-ray single-crystal diffraction instrument (located at PCCF) and Surface Plasmon Resonance instrument (located at SSSC), which will be shared by PCCF and SSSC users.