Molecular Graphics: Bridging Structural Biologists and Computer Scientists

Structure. 2019 Nov 5;27(11):1617-1623. doi: 10.1016/j.str.2019.09.001. Epub 2019 Sep 26.


Visualization of molecular structures is one of the most common tasks carried out by structural biologists, typically using software, such as Chimera, COOT, PyMOL, or VMD. In this Perspective article, we outline how past developments in computer graphics and data visualization have expanded the understanding of biomolecular function, and we summarize recent advances that promise to further transform structural biology. We also highlight how progress in molecular graphics has been impeded by communication barriers between two communities: the computer scientists driving these advances, and the structural and computational biologists who stand to benefit. By pointing to canonical papers and explaining technical progress underlying new graphical developments in simple terms, we aim to improve communication between these communities; this, in turn, would help shape future developments in molecular graphics.

Keywords: molecular graphics; molecular visualization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computer Graphics*
  • Interdisciplinary Communication
  • Models, Structural
  • Molecular Biology / methods*