This application seeks funding to establish the West/Midwest Consortium for High-Resolution Cryo Electron Microscopy (cryoEM). The goal of the consortium is to offer 19 cryoEM users from 10 regional institutes free access to a high-end cryoEM facility with proven high-resolution capabilities located in the California NanoSystems Institute (CNSI) at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA will act as host institute and provide investigators in these cryoEM laboratories access to its highly productive Titan Krios cryo electron microscope recently upgraded with a Volta phase plate, a Gatan imaging filter (GIF), and pre- and post-GIF direct electron detectors. A highly experienced staff with proven records of cryoEM-derived atomic structures will provide on-site assistance to collect data and provide streamlined movie pre-processing for our consortium user laboratories. The critical need for this consortium for recording atomic-resolution cryoEM images of a broad range of bio-medically significant macromolecular complexes is justified by the immediate benefits to the 19 consortium users. Of particular note, we have demonstrated that, once trained by our staff, users no longer have to be present at the microscope and can remotely control the microscope and perform high-resolution cryoEM imaging after our staff have aligned the instruments for top performance, thus significantly improving accessibility to the high-end instrument. A three-member supervisory committee representing non-consortium users, regional consortium users and the UCLA facility staff will provide evaluation and approval of user projects, adding and dropping users. Under our typical operation, a user group with approved projects requests research instrument time with an existing professionally-designed online reservation system, sends cryoEM grids by overnight courier (such as FedEx) in a liquid nitrogen-cooled dry shipper, and, after their grids are loaded by our staff, image their sample remotely for 3-7 days on average, and up to 2-3 weeks if necessary. The 10 institutes are concentrated on the West coast (University of Washington in Seattle, University of California at San Diego, Scripps) and Midwest (Case Western Reserve University, Purdue University, The University of Kansas, University of Alabama at Birmingham) except for three (University of Texas at El Paso, University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, and University of Florida at Gainesville). With the exception of three new investigators, all these users are funded by the NIH or other federal agencies to pursue biomedical research, ranging from biology, biochemistry, virology and microbiology. The establishment of this consortium will immediately empower our users with high-resolution cryoEM capabilities for a broad range of biological samples, enabling them to understand mechanisms of action and identify new targets for the development of new therapeutics.
Structural studies of various macromolecular complexes enabled by this consortium will lead to atomic models, help to understand their mechanisms of action, inform efforts to rationally design drugs and vaccines, and suggest novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
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