Quips ("Quite Interesting PDB Structures") are short interactive articles that explore ‘quite interesting’ structures from the PDB archive. Featuring animated views of PDB structures, and often written in collaboration with members of the structural biology community, Quips help bring the wonderful world of structures to life.

If you have an interesting structure whose story you would like to tell (with our help) in the form of a Quips article, please contact us at pdbehelp@ebi.ac.uk


bZip Transcription Factors: Picking up DNA with chopsticks

June 2014

What do transcription factors and the Karate Kid have in common? Find out in this Quips article exploring how bZip domains dimerise and bind to DNA. 


Acetylcholinesterase: A gorge-ous enzyme

November 2013

Acetylcholine was the first neurotransmitter to be identified, earning Dale and Loewi the 1936 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. It is an essential component of the nervous system, a target of chemical weapons, snake venoms and also anti-dementia drugs. Find out how it works, and how it is inhibited, in our latest Quips article.


Cystatin: A protein that flips out!

September 2013

Protein residues in unusually strained conformations often merit close inspection. It may mean that the model was built incorrectly, but in the case of the cystatin family, a conformational outlier is essential for function. However it’s also the protein’s Achilles' heel, and can cause dementia, haemorrhage and death.


Transformers: The science, not the fiction

June 2013

Research on the bacterial transcription factor RfaH has shown that it undergoes such an extreme conformational transformation that it has been called a ‘transformer protein’. It is able to switch between two completely different secondary and tertiary structures, each with a specific physiological function.


Avidin: an egg-stremely useful interaction

March 2013

Avidin is produced in the oviducts of birds, reptiles and amphibians and is deposited in the whites of their eggs. Avidin binds biotin (also known as vitamin H) with an egg-stremely high degree of affinity and specificity making the system a very useful tool in biotechnology and medicine. Applications of avidin range from research and diagnostics to medical devices and pharmaceuticals.


Complex I: Pumping protons - a complex problem

June 2013

Complex I plays a key role in cellular energy production. For the first time, the structure of complex I, the first enzyme of the respiratory chain, has been determined in its entirety. This structure reveals the organisation of the 16 subunits and provides clues as to how this enzyme works. Our complex I Quips helps you explore the structure.


Insulin: An early structure with sweet success

January 2013

Insulin is a peptide hormone, produced by beta cells of the pancreas, and is central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Failure to control insulin levels can result in high blood sugar and diabetes, which affects around 300 million people worldwide.


Beta 2 adrenergic receptor: A Nobel protein helping you breathe more easily

December 2012

Today, Nobel Laureates Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka take center stage in Stockholm where they will receive their Nobel Prize Medals for their studies of G-protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs).
To mark this occasion we have written a special Quips article which explores the Nobel Prize winning structure of B2AR bound to its G-protein.


Pathogenic fungi get a grip of their hosts

October 2012

Candida albicans, the fungus that causes candidiasis, uses proteins called adhesins to stick to its host in order to infect it. The structure of a Candida adhesin shows that it is similar to bacterial adhesins, but its adhesive properties are very different. The structure reveals how it can stick to lots of different proteins and why it has a strong preference for grabbing their C-terminal ends.


How pathogens detox: the bacterial antibiotic efflux system protein TolC

September 2012

In order to expel toxic chemicals from the cell, Gram negative bacteria must export them across both the inner and outer membranes and the periplasm in between them. In the latest installment of Quips, find out how the TolC duct is built to convey these chemicals across the periplasm and outer membrane, and how it prevents leakage back into the periplasm


Sunhats for plants

July 2012

Plants suffer from DNA damage caused by ultraviolet light in the same way that humans do. Unlike us though, they can't put on a sunhat (or move to England) to avoid the sun's rays. Read more about how plants sense UV-B light and turn on a suite of genes to protect their DNA against its deleterious effects in the latest installment of Quips


CBL - Lord of the RINGs

May 2012

E3 ubiquitin ligase is responsible for flagging proteins for degradation by transferring ubiquitin from a donor protein onto the molecule to be degraded. It is activated by phosphorylation of a tyrosine which promotes a huge conformational change, swinging its RING domain 180 degrees to put the enzyme's two substrates in proximity.


Clamping down on pathogenic bacteria

February 2012

Today a new interactive Quips story was released, exploring the structure of bacterial polymerase III and in particular the beta-clamp and its interaction with DNA. The accompanying mini-tutorial shows how you can explore a structure further and produce your own customised views using the OpenAstexViewer (which is used in Quips for 3D animations and graphics).


An X(-mas) Factor that gets our vote

December 2011

If you should suffer from Christmas Disease, and you were to cut yourself while carving the turkey, you could be in trouble! Find out why in the last episode for 2011 of Quips, PDBe's collection of interactive stories about QUite Interesting Pdb Structures.


Bacteriophages get a foothold on their prey

November 2011

Today a new episode of Quips was released, about the structure of the receptor-binding region of gp37 from bacteriophage T4 and its probable interaction with one of the receptors on the bacterial host's outer membrane. This episode of Quips was produced together with Mark van Raaij. The accompanying mini-tutorial shows how the iron coordination in gp37 can be analysed using the PDBeMotif (pdbe.org/motif) service.


Phaser - a "stunning" method for solving crystal structures

October 2011

This Quips episode looks back at the first crystal structure that was solved with the program Phaser and also tries to explain in (almost) layman's terms how Molecular Replacement works. The accompanying mini-tutorial shows you how to do multiple structure superimposition using PDBeFold (SSM; pdbe.org/fold).


Autotaxin: inhibiting a greasy pocket

September 2011

This Quips episode is about autotaxins, physiologically important proteins that are pursued as anti-cancer drug targets. It was developed together with scientists from the Netherlands Cancer Institute (Tassos Perrakis and Wouter Moolenaar) to accompany their recent review paper in Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology on autotaxin structure and function.


Getting a good rate of exchange - the mitochondrial ADP-ATP carrier

June 2011



The story of 2YF6 - the 10,000th PDB entry annotated at the Protein Data Bank in Europe

April 2011


NGF - twenty years a-growing

March 2011


A deadly toxin with a romantic name: Panton-Valentine Leukocidin complex

February 2011