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Crystallography, Structure and Function of Biological Macromolecules :

macrom5The MACROM group works in the area of understanding the three-dimensional structure of biomolecules by using single-crystal X-ray diffraction techniques to study the structure of DNA and its interactions with drugs, ions and proteins.

This group uses two complementary methodologies: crystallography and recombinant DNA techniques.

Crystallography studies require the molecules to be crystallized from extremely pure samples. The best crystals are selected using an optical microscope and are frozen with liquid nitrogen.

X-ray diffraction of these crystals is carried out in the Grenoble synchrotron, on an image place connected to a supply of liquid nitrogen. The diffraction obtained is processed with the aid of specific programs in order to determine the 3-D structure of the study sample. This method has been used to study a large number of synthetic oligonucleotides, which have provided valuable information on new forms of DNA (Hoogsteen, recombinant-like, superhelixes, etc.).

Access to the Grenoble synchrotron provides a tremendous boost to these studies. Our research is readily applicable to areas such as pharmaceuticals, medicine and obtaining new materials and nanotechnology.

macrom6We also study the structure and function of different proteins that interact directly or indirectly with DNA. These studies require large quantities of pure protein. To this end, we incorporated recombinant DNA technology into our group in 1998. In this aspect, we have both the experience and the equipment needed for cloning and expressing proteins in prokaryotes and for purifying them and resolving their structure using x-ray diffraction. Furthermore, using directed mutagenesis techniques it is possible to obtain recombinant forms designed both to improve their crystallization and to study specific functional aspects.  

Our work currently focuses on the study of nucleoplasmin and human HMGA1a. Nucleoplasmin is a nuclear chaperone that is involved in the remodelling of sperm chromatin that takes place after fertilization. HMGA1a is involved in many biological processes, including different types of cancer.

Relevant equipment :

  • The crystallography laboratory has several chambers at different temperatures for growing crystals, polarized-light microscopes with image-capturing systems and special containers for storing crystals frozen in liquid nitrogen.
  • We also have X-ray diffraction chambers and several computers with graphic screens.
  • The biotechnology laboratory for the cloning, expression and purification of recombinant proteins: thermocycler, freezer at -80ºC, incubator sonicator, different heaters and thermal baths, centrifuges for volumes ranging from microliters to litres, two complete chromatography units, and different vertical and horizontal electrophoresis units. 

Contacts :




Scientific output :

eprints upc

Group website :

Group video :

video MACROM [wmv]