Mailed 6/3/96

Brookhaven National Laboratory
Diane Greenberg or Mona S. Rowe, (516)344-2345 or

National Science Foundation
Cheryl Dybas (703)306-1070


Upton, NY -- Four government agencies, spearheaded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), have jointly given the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory an award to operate the Protein Data Bank (PDB).

The PDB is a unique international clearinghouse for three-dimensional structural information about proteins, nucleic acids and other biological macromolecules. Scientists around the world contribute structures to the PDB and use it on a daily basis. The scientific community depends on convenient access to this information as an invaluable aid to its research, because the exact three-dimensional arrangement of these molecules determines their biological function.

The PDB has become a major resource for research in a wide variety of areas besides structural biology, including better understanding of the molecular basis of certain diseases and the design of new therapeutics. The structural data on proteins and nucleic acids will also help scientists use the information generated by the Human Genome Project to increase their understanding of human biology and to improve human health.

Originated at Brookhaven, the PDB was supported for 25 years by renewable NSF grants. Because of tremendous growth, both in the number of structures -- the PDB contains about 5,000 structures today, as opposed to only 300 in 1989 -- and in the number of scientists wanting access to this information, funding will now be provided through a cooperative agreement rather than a grant.

The current award, granted after an open competition, took effect May 1 and is funded by the NSF and three other federal agencies -- the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Library of Medicine, both components of the National Institutes of Health. The NSF will administer the award and oversee the operations of the PDB to assure its effectiveness. The combined funding for fiscal year 1996 is $2.5 million.

PDB head Dr. Joel Sussman, a protein crystallographer at Brookhaven and a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said, "On behalf of Brookhaven National Laboratory, I am eager to accept the challenge of keeping the Protein Data Bank a vital international resource for research institutions and industry. We expect this new cooperative agreement will facilitate the efficient operations of the fast-growing facility."

In April, the PDB and its 18-member staff moved from Brookhaven's Chemistry Department to brand new specially-designed quarters in the Biology Department. With research programs in structural biology, molecular genetics and DNA sequencing for the Human Genome Project, the Biology Department is an ideal location for the PDB.

With its new award, the PDB will also get a new name. Dr. Sussman said, "While it isn't finalized yet, the new name is expected to be 3DB, for Three-Dimensional Database of Biomacromolecules, which emphasizes both the three-dimensional nature of the data and that we archive other biomolecules besides proteins."

Dr. Sussman further stressed that information contained in the PDB is available to anyone who has access to the World Wide Web (WWW) at http://www.pdb.bnl.gov. Transfer of information across the WWW is sometimes slow, so to improve the service to the international community, `mirror' copies of the PDB information are becoming available at a number of sites around the world. Such sites are already running at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel; at Peking University, China; and at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory Outstation -- the European Bioinformatics Institute in the United Kingdom.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is a natural host for the PDB because it carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Many molecular biologists and crystallographers are attracted to Brookhaven to use its unique facilities, including the National Synchrotron Light Source and the High Flux Beam Reactor.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.


Cytochrome C5, a member of the electron transport chain of the nitrogen-fixing bacterium, Azotobacter vinelandii. Structure determined by D.C.Carter and C.D.Stout at the Dept. of Crystallography, University of Pittsburgh. This structure, Protein Data Bank entry 1CC5, is one of nearly 5,000 biological macromolecules stored in the PDB and accessible through the World Wide Web. Image is part of the Swiss-3DImage collection created by Manuel C. Peitsch, Glaxo Institute for Molecular Biology, Geneva, Switzerland and available through the PDB's Web site.