Ben Berks is a biochemist who studies how bacteria secrete proteins across their cell envelope.
Ben is a co-discoverer of the bacterial Tat (twin-arginine translocation) system. Tat is now known to be the second most widely distributed protein transport system in biology and is essential for the virulence of bacterial pathogens and for plant photosynthesis. Very unusually, Tat is able to transport fully folded proteins across membranes while preventing the leak of ions and small molecules. Together with many valued colleagues, Ben has pursued multidisciplinary efforts to understand how this is achieved. These have included the pioneering use of single molecule fluorescence to image protein transport processes in live bacteria. More recently he has identified and characterized the protein transporter of the Type IX Secretion System involved in protein export by dental pathogens. Ben has also made significant contributions to our understanding of Tat-targeted enzymes involved in the metabolism of inorganic nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus species.
Ben is a recipient of the Fleming Award of the Microbiology Society and is a Wellcome Trust Investigator.
Professor of Biochemistry, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford
Interest and expertise
Biochemistry and molecular cell biology
Biophysics and structural biology, Molecular microbiology, Biochemistry and molecular biology
Microbiology, immunology and developmental biology
General microbiology (incl bacteriology and virology)
Protein transport, Live cell single molecule fluorescence