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An Introduction to Biomolecular Graphics

Cameron Mura, Colin M. McCrimmon, Jason Vertrees, Michael R. Sawaya

PLoS Computational Biology. 6: e1000918. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi. 1000918 (2010).

Biological function arises from detailed molecular structure, making it difficult to overemphasize the role of structural visualization and biomolecular graphics in shaping our current understanding of the molecular nature of biological systems. Indeed, one need only compare the number of three-dimensional (3D) structures illustrated in the first (1990) and fourth (2010) editions of Voet & Voet’s Biochemistry in order to appreciate the profound communicative value of molecular graphics in modern biosciences, ranging from medicine and physiology to drug design and computational biology. Faced with a deluge of structural genomics results over the past decade, the cliché about a picture being worth a thousand words is quite poignant: The information “content” of carefully constructed molecular graphics can be immense. Because computer-based molecular visualization (MolVis) is such an effective means for exploring and analyzing structural data, this guide introduces the science and art of biomolecular graphics, both in principle and as practiced in structural and computational biology.