Biophysical Reviews

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 543–545 | Cite as

Insulin and its receptor: a grand challenge in structural biology

  • Michael C LawrenceEmail author

The discovery of insulin in 1922 by Frederick Banting, Charles Best, and colleagues at the University of Toronto (Banting et al. 1922) through to the determination of the atomic structure of the hormone in 1969 by x-ray crystallography (Adams et al. 1969) forms a fascinating part of the early history of structural biology. A further almost fifty years were then to elapse before structures of insulin bound to the ectodomain component of its receptor finally emerged (Scapin et al. 2018; Weis et al. 2018). These latter structures were obtained through cryo-electron microscopy, though the interpretation of the maps involved was heavily reliant on a set of x-ray crystal structures of fragments of the receptor (both in apo form and in complex with insulin) that had been obtained in the earlier decade or so. Taken together, these achievements in insulin structural biology weave a rich tapestry that highlights not only the persistence of the scientists involved but also the numerous...


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Conflict of interest

Michael C Lawrence declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by the author.


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Copyright information

© International Union for Pure and Applied Biophysics (IUPAB) and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical ResearchParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Medical BiologyUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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