Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of East Anglia
Dates: Oct 2007-Sep 2010
Summary: Research in my laboratory is focused on understanding the tools that microbes use to interact with other organisms. Mostly we work on proteins from pathogens (disease causing microbes) that either enable them to ‘stick’ to their hosts or change the way the host cell is ‘wired’ to give a benefit to the pathogen (e.g. gain nutrients, compromise host immunity).
The activity of protein molecules is primarily dictated by their three-dimensional structure and we use this as a tool to design experiments to assess protein function. Frequently, studies of protein structure provide big surprises that would have not been at all obvious using other approaches; sometimes it is the only tractable method to gain insights that can change the way we think about biology. For instance, we have recently been working with a pathogen called Streptococcus pyogenes, a human-specific pathogen that causes ‘Strep throat’, which is not normally serious, but also causes infections/diseases such as impetigo, scarlett fever, acute rheumatic fever, streptococcal toxic shock syndrome and necrotizing fasciitis (so-called flesh-eating disease). By studying the structure of a protein presented on the surface of the pathogen we have discovered a potentially novel mechanism for how pathogens can ‘stick’ to host cells. By understanding this mechanism we may be able to design new tools to prevent pathogens using this to bind to host cells, which would limit infection and therefore disease.
In other work we aim to understand the function of protein molecules that are transferred to the inside of host cells by pathogens (known as ‘effectors’). These studies use proteins from pathogens of both mammals and plants and may have application to (1) treating human disease and (2) enabling new approaches to generate sustainable agriculture in a time of intensification and climate change.
Organisation: Newcastle University
Dates: Oct 2002-Sep 2007
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.