Dear colleagues and friends,

Intermolecular interactions – between or among proteins, nucleic acids, or small molecules – underlie virtually every aspect of biology. Quantitative analysis of these interactions to determine their affinity, specificity, stoichiometry, cooperativity (allostery), and kinetics is a required first step toward understanding their biological roles. Recent developments in a range of new analytical methods have made direct quantitative study of macromolecular interactions readily accessible even to those with limited background in ligand-binding theory. Although the theory is rooted in the most elementary principles of general chemistry, it is very often applied poorly, leading to incorrect or ambiguous results, many of which have found their way into the literature over the years, limiting our understanding of interactions in important biomolecular systems.

Photo together

In 2014 we organized our first and in 2016 our second FEBS Advanced practical and laboratory course in ligand-binding theory and practice. The feedback from participants, speakers and tutors was very positive and as organizers we were very happy with the outcome and thus decided to offer a similar course again in 2018.

This course will provide basic training in the principles of ligand-binding theory, and will offer students a chance to analyse their own macromolecular interaction systems using the contemporary advanced methods of surface plasmon resonance SPR, isothermal titration calorimetry ITC, fluorescence spectroscopy, and microscale thermophoresis, guided by lecturers and tutors who are experts in the design, execution, and analysis of these experiments. Students will also gain exposure to contemporary experimental ligand-binding methods that are not represented among the practicals, including NMR, mass spectrometry, analytical ultracentrifugation AUC, electrophoretic mobility-shift, biolayer interferometry, and quartz crystal microbalance, through presentations by lecturers who are expert in each method. Besides ligand binding per se, a second unifying theme of the lectures will be allostery, also known as cooperativity. Nobelist Jacques Monod is said to have regarded allostery as life’s second secret, and study of allosteric mechanisms is widely regarded as the most important contemporary application of ligand-binding studies. Among the lecturers will be experts who will discuss our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of allostery.

The course is aimed for practitioners of ligand binding at the graduate or early postdoctoral level, although our experience indicates that even more advanced practitioners, such as the speakers and tutors themselves, will also increase their competency, enabling them to disseminate an accurate understanding of this critical topic. Basic training in the fundaments of ligand-binding theory will be provided to enable all students to acquire the principles used in their experiments. This training is fully general and will therefore equip students with the skills to critically evaluate published binding data in any molecular system. These lectures, group discussions, and problem-solving exercises will be offered in seminars directed by Prof. Carey, and computational analysis, simulation, and data-fitting will be offered in a workshop directed by Prof. Wei-Feng Xue, concluding with a workshop on global analysis of each student’s ligand-binding results.

All accepted students will be advised to bring experimental samples that can be suited for the available laboratory practicals. The organizers will work closely in advance with the selected applicants to ensure they bring with them materials that are appropriate for each practical, and to prioritize for each student the practicals that are most likely to yield usable data for each student's system. Students will be assigned to experimental groups by the organizers in advance based on the methods to be used with each student's samples.

Students will be expected to bring posters that introduce their research project; illustrate the role of ligand-binding studies in their project; and explain why the methods of this course are expected to be useful for their work. These requirements will once again be clearly stated when soliciting applicants. Posters will be displayed all week in the social hall, starting at the opening night welcome reception, to enable all participants to become acquainted with all students’ work and to stimulate discussion among all participants.

Every student will present a fifteen-minute talk to the entire group of participants (students, speakers, tutors, organizers, and guests) during the second half of the week. The organizing committee assisted by the laboratory tutors will decide on student talks based on either the results of the laboratory practicals or the posters.

Jannette Carey, Rudiger Ettrich, Wei-Feng Xue
Course Organizers



    CNSB logo       


  • Applications Opening
    1 January 2018
  • Youth Travel Fund Grants
    15 March 2018
  • Applications closing
    2 May 2018

FEBS has twin commitments to high-quality publications and the promotion of molecular biosciences. As a charitable academic organization,
FEBS uses income from the journals to fund its diverse activities, including support for FEBS Advanced Courses.