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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences
(023) 8059 4350

Dr Philip Williamson BA (Hons), MA, DPhil

Associate Professor, Principal Investigator (Structural biology and biological membranes)

Dr Philip Williamson's photo

Dr Philip Williamson is an Associate Professor within Biological Sciences at the University of Southampton.

Career history

2019-to date: Associate Professor, University of Southampton
2007-2019: Lecturer, University of Southampton
2007-2011: Wellcome Trust Career Development Fellowship. University of Southampton, UK
2005-2007: Charge de Recherche. CNRS/ULP-Strasbourg, France

Academic qualifications

2000-2005: Post-doctoral Fellow. ETH-Zurich, Switzerland, UK
1995-2000: DPhil in Biochemistry. University of Oxford, UK
1991-1995: BA (Hons), MA, Biochemistry Department, University of Oxford

Research interests

Molecular interactions in biological membranes

Biological membranes are ubiquitous in nature and play a vital role in defining the interface of the cell with its environment and its intracellular compartmentalisation. In order to facilitate the transfer of information and materials across these barriers cells have evolved families of integral membrane proteins. The goal of our research is to understand the function of these proteins in their native lipid environment and for this purpose; we are developing solid-state NMR techniques which enable us to probe the structure and dynamics of these systems at an atomic level. In conjunction with other biophysical techniques, this method allows us to characterise how membrane proteins interact with other proteins, the surrounding lipids and other small molecules and to determine how these interactions modulate their function.

Recognition of small molecules by integral membrane receptors

The regulation of many integral membrane receptors is mediated through their interaction with small molecules. Our studies on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor have enabled us to identify interactions involved in ligand binding and determine the conformation of the bound agonist, acetylcholine. Currently we are developing further solid-state NMR techniques to analyse how hydrophobic ligands such as anaesthetics may interact with the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor and aid in the rational development of pharmaceuticals against both this and other classes of membrane proteins.

Regulation of protein trafficking

The targeting of integral membrane proteins to the appropriate organelle or region at cell surface is vital to their function in eukaryotic cells. It is proposed that interactions between lipids and integral membrane proteins may play an important role in regulating this targeting process. Exploiting the potential of solid-state NMR techniques to study the structure of integral membrane proteins under near physiological conditions, we hope to be able to determine how bilayer composition and lateral phase separation may regulate the structure, oligomeric state and localization of integral membrane proteins and determine the role that this may play in regulating intracellular protein trafficking. These studies may provide molecular insights into a range of diseases linked to the mistrafficking of proteins.

Amyloidogenic diseases

A number of diseases important to modern society including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s are characterised by the deposition of proteins as insoluble aggregates within the body. Solid-state NMR provides us with a unique opportunity to probe the structure of these aggregates at a molecular level. Currently we are employing solid-state NMR in conjunction with other biophysical techniques to characterise the structural transitions that result in the formation of these deposits. These studies are providing us with valuable insights into the onset and progression of these diseases and ascertaining the role other in-vivo factors may play in these diseases.

Research Projects

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR)

Research group

Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

Affiliate research groups

Neuroscience, Institute for Complex Systems Simulation (ICSS)

Research project(s)

Understanding the role of lipid-protein interactions in the intracellular localisation of proteins and its role in muscular dystrophy.

Using a range of biophysical techniques we are investigating how the lipid composition of the intracellular compartments affects protein structure and the role this may play of intracellular localisation.

Understanding the role of serum amyloid-P component in the stabilization of amyloid deposits

Using a combination of liquid and solid-state NMR spectroscopy we aim to understand how serum amyloid-P component recognises amyloid fibrils and the role this plays in their stabilization.

Investigating the role of membranes on protein aggregation and neurotoxicity of the huntingtin protein.


BIOL1007/1010 Macromolecules of Life
BIOL2011 Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
BIOL2012 Exploring Proteins: Structure and Function
CHEM1039 Biological Chemistry
BIOL1021 Behaviour of Biomolecules
CHEM6156 Advanced Topics in Magnetic Resonance

Module Coordinator

BIOL3017 The Molecular and Structural Basis of Disease
BIOL6031 Cell Membranes
BIOL6033 Molecular Basis of Disease
BIOL6082 Skills in Bimolecular NMR
BIOL6083 Skills in Optical Spectroscopy
CHEM6157 Introduction to Practical Aspects in NMR

Programme Manager for Biomedical Sciences.

University of Southampton

2019-to date: Program Lead for Biomedical Science.
2011-to date: Academic Lead for the Bimolecular Core, Biological Sciences.
2009-to date: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Facility, University of Southampton Management Group.
2019-to date: Connect NMR UK, Southampton Contact.

Professional Affiliations

Editorial Board of Magnetic Resonance Insights, Frontier in Molecular Bioscience and Nature Reports.
CCPN, Executive Committee (2011-2019).
Facility Executive of UK National High-Field Solid-State NMR Facility (2014 to date)
Member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (1991 to date)
Member of the American Biophysical Society (1994 to date)
Member of the Biochemical Society (2007 to date)
Member of the British Biophysical Society (2013 to date)

Journal Paper Reviews

Biochemistry, JACS, European Biophysics Journal, Biophysical Journal, Magnetic Resonance in Chemistry.

Dr Philip Williamson
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number : 85/3002

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