University of Liverpool
A famous scientist once said 'DNA and RNA provide the script, but proteins are the actors'. Proteomics is the study of the actors in the cell, how they sometimes have soliloquies, sometimes act in dialogues, but mostly in crowd scenes. A simple cell, such as the humble brewer's yeast, have over 4,000 'parts', and for some of these parts, there are over a million actors but for others, there may be as few as ten actors. This complexity, and the huge differences in the numbers of each character, make proteomics very challenging. If we try to study the rare components, we are overwhelmed by the abundant ones, if we study the abundant proteins, we never even see the rare ones.
In this project, I am working with an instrument manufacturer and now, as a result of the Fellowship, with a third company that specialises in new tools to selectively isolate single types of proteins from a complex extract of a cell. By fishing out these single proteins, it is now possible to deliver them to the instrument one at a time, which eliminates any of the crowding and complexity that can otherwise thwart our efforts to study the proteome.
Why is such a technological development important? First, by allowing us to ‘go fishing’ and selectively isolate one protein from thousands, we can improve the scope and scale of biomarkers, the use of biological molecules as sentinels, of disease, of environmental health. Secondly, this approach will give biologists new tools to understand the complexity of the interpretation and delivery of the ‘script’ – essential if we are to improve our understanding of the process of life. Lastly, the tools we will develop have considerable commercial potential and contribute to UK plc.
Interests and expertise (Subject groups)