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The University of Southampton
Structural Biology Part of Biological Sciences

Membrane proteins

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 at the atomic level how integral membranes function and are regulated within the lipid bilayer and how this contributes to normal cellular function and the onset of disease states. To address this challenge we use a range of techniques, including X-ray crystallography, solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance and other biophysical methods such as circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy to understand the structure of the integral membrane proteins and how they are regulated through their interaction with drugs and other cellular factors.

A variety of membrane proteins control the flow of nutrients into cells
Nutrient uptake through membranes

Membranes represent barriers between cellular compartments. Life requires these barriers to be crossed, either in nutrient uptake or to sort cellular metabolites into their appropriate cellular locations. We study nutrient uptake mechanisms in ubiquitous marine bacteria found in oceanic and limnic habitats. These bacteria dominate the microbial community in oligotrophic gyres that are poor in nutrients, and therefore have very effective mechanisms for nutrient uptake. The scheme shows how nutrients are first taken up from the environments by proteins called porins, before they enter the bacterial periplasm. Subsequent active transport via ABC transporters makes these nutrients available inside the bacterial cell (cytoplasm). This project is a collaboration with the National Oceanographic Centre (NOC) .

PhD: Moritz Machelett
Supervisor: Dr Ivo Tews , Prof Mikhail Zubkov
PhD research: Bacterial nutrient uptake
Funding: Faculty VC Scholarship, NOC / NERC
Primary Research Group: Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

PhD: Ben Yarnell
Supervisor: Dr Declan Doyle , Dr Lorraine Williams , Prof Matthew Terry
PhD research: Are GTGs a new class of plant anion channels regulating pH in the endomembrane system?
Funding: BBSRC
Primary Research Group: Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

PhD: Luke Evans, Jossip Ivica
Supervisor: Dr Phil Williamson
PhD Research: Potassium Channels
Primary research group: Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

PhD: Rafael Gomes
Supervisor: Dr Phil Williamson
PhD Research: Hepatitis C virus NS proteins
Primary research group: Molecular and Cellular Biosciences

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