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Molecular Machines of Life


Molecular Machines of Life

Margarida Archer
Manuel Melo

This unit aims to provide the student with a deep knowledge on the function, structure and dynamics of molecular machines. Specifically, the student should be able to,

1- Understand the concept of molecular machines.

2- Know that molecular machines are constituted by biomolecules.

3- Recognize different functions and structures of molecular machines.

4- Integrate the functions of molecular machines in metabolism and cellular processes.

5- Recognize different methodologies to structural and functionally investigate molecular machines.


  1. Introduction to the concept of molecular machines as organized molecular structures, which perform physicochemical processes. Integration of the different molecular machines and respective functions in the metabolism and cellular processes.
  2. Building and processing machines. Examples: Polymerases, Ribosome, Proteasome, Spliciosome, Condensin, T4 DNA packing motor, Helicase/Topisomerase, Mitotic Spindle.
  3. Cargo transporters/moving machines. Examples: Kinesin, Myosin, Dynein
  4. Cargo membrane transporters/Secreting systems. Examples: TIM/TOM systems, ClpX, Sec and TAT systems,Secreting systems, Injectosome
  5. Cellular motility machines. Examples: Flagellum, Cillium, Glideosome,
  6. Signal transduction machines. Examples: Voltage dependent anion channels (VDAC), K+ channels, mechanosensitive channels.
  7. Energy conserving machines. Examples: Respiratory complexes, ATP synthase, Na+/H+ antiporters, Bacteriorhodopsine.

Main Bibliography

  1. Molecular Biology of Assemblies and Machines, by Alasdair Steven, Wolfgang Baumeister, Louise N. Johnson, Richard N. Perham, 2016, 1st Edition, ISBN 9780815341666
  2. Lehninger, Principles of Biochemistry by DL Nelson and MM Cox, 2017, 7th edition, ISBN:9781464126116.
  3. Biophysical Chemistry: Part I, II e III by Charles R. Cantor, Ed. Paul R. Schimmel, W. H. Freeman, 1980, 1st edition, ISBN 978-0-7167-1188-9, 978-0-7167-1190-2, 978-0-7167-1192-6.
  4. The Machinery of Life by David S. Goodsell, 2009, 2nd edition, ISBN 978-0387849249.
  5. Molecular Machines in Biology: Workshop of the Cell by Joachim Frank, 2011, ISBN 978-0521194280.
  6. Molecular Machines Benoit Roux, 2011, 1st edition, ISBN 978-9814343442.
  7. How Proteins Work by Mike Williamson, 2011, 1st edition, ISBN 978-0815344469.


  1. Pastore A. New challenges in structural biology: catching the complexity of dynamic nanomachines, Front Mol Biosci. 1: 3. 2014. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2014.00003
  2. Mura C, Draizen EJ, Bourne PE. Structural biology meets data science: does anything change? Curr Opin Struct Biol. 52:95-102. 2018. doi: 10.1016/



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