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Our Research

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Cryo-electron microscopy

The main technique used in our laboratory is cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM).  This method allows us to image cells at high resolution and determine structures of the proteins within.

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Bacteriophage infection

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. We are studying the infection cycle of the f1 filamentous bacteriophage, a strikingly simple virus comprised of just 5 proteins. The f1 phage does not lyse its host bacteria, but rather encodes a protein called pIV that becomes inserted into bacterial outer membranes, allowing the phage to egress.  Using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, we have determined the structures of f1 phage and pIV. The structures are now being used to guide experiments aimed to address mechanism, with wide-ranging implications from phage display in biotechnology to phage therapy in medicine.

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Bacterial type IV pili

The type IV pilus is a long filamentous appendage assembled on the surface of bacteria. It is used for cell motility and in many cases genetic exchange, which can lead to development of pathogenicity and antimicrobial resistance.

 

Using a combination of biochemistry with single-particle analysis and helical reconstruction, we study the structure and function of the proteins that comprise type IV pili. This work has downstream implications for the development of new antimicrobials aimed at preventing bacterial proliferation and resistance mechanisms.

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The machinery that assembles type IV pili

The protein complex that assembles type IV pili is a multi-component, trans-membrane machine. To complement high-resolution work above, we use in situ cryo-electron tomography to study the structure and function of the protein machinery that assembles type IV pili.

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Mitochondrial energy metabolism and disease

Mitochondria produce the energy required for cellular life. Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to ageing and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Using the nematode worm C. elegans as a model system, we investigate the effects of ageing on mitochondrial proteins with respect to their structure and function. This will help us to understand more about energy metabolism and mitochondrial disease, informing strategies that can improve human health.

Funding
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