Department of Biochemistry University of Oxford Department of Biochemistry
University of Oxford
South Parks Road
Oxford OX1 3QU

Tel: +44 (0)1865 613200
Fax: +44 (0)1865 613201
Collage of Drosophila third instar larva optic lobe
Lu Yang, Davis lab
First year Biochemistry students at a practical class
Image showing the global movement of lipids in a model planar membrane
Matthieu Chavent, Sansom lab
Anaphase bridges in fission yeast cells
Whitby lab
Lactose permease represented using bending cylinders in Bendix software
Caroline Dahl, Sansom lab
Epithelial cells in C. elegans showing a seam cell that failed to undergo cytokinesis
Serena Ding, Woollard lab
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New insights into the extracellular regulation of Notch and TGF-beta signaling pathways
Cartoon to show Notch ligands interact with membrane as well as with the Notch receptor via their C2 domain (shown in pale green) Two new pieces of MRC-funded work from the Handford lab on Notch signalling regulation by membrane lipids and TGF beta sequestration by fibrillin-1/LTBP1 have recently been published Published: 30 August 2017
A taste of biochemistry for school students
UNIQ Why study biochemistry at University? Here in the department we have tried to answer this question for 40 students visiting Oxford for a week-long residential camp as part of the UNIQ summer school program Published: 30 August 2017
The final step in bacterial lipoprotein maturation
Structure and topology of Lnt Gram-negative bacteria express numerous lipoproteins on their outer membrane. These proteins serve vital roles in bacteria and contribute to pathogenicity and antibiotic resistance. Understanding how lipoproteins are made will pave the way to develop new antibiotics Published: 30 August 2017
Checking the checkpoint: Revealing the structure of an elusive quality control enzyme
Checking the Checkpoint The structure of an important enzyme that oversees the secretion of thousands of secreted glycoproteins has been solved by a fruitful collaborative effort between the Department of Biochemistry and Diamond Light Source in Oxford, and two Italian research institutes Published: 27 July 2017

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Mark Sansom, Head of Department

The Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford is a centre for world class research and teaching of all aspects of Biochemistry by staff from many different backgrounds and nationalities. Our research addresses a wide range of questions relating to the fundamental basis of all cellular life from man to microbes. This work explains the structures and functions of proteins and nucleic acids, and in doing so addresses the mechanisms of many human diseases. Using this knowledge, other researchers aim to create new vaccines, antiviral and antibacterial therapies to protect and treat humans across the world.

You can read more about the details of our current work and other aspects of the department, including undergraduate teaching and public outreach activities, on these web pages.

Professor Mark Sansom, Head of Department

News Highlight

Two arms secure gene transcription at the right sites

New findings that shed light on how epigenetic components in mammals shape transcription have been published by the Klose group.

The Cell Reports paper, a collaborative effort between labs in Oxford, Japan and the USA, reveals how a key histone-modifying enzyme is targeted to promoters and helps ensure appropriate gene expression (1). The findings provide an important step towards understanding how an epigenetic change can influence transcription.

Figure 1. Schematic showing that the chromatin-modifying complex SET1 is targeted to active genes at CpG islands via its component CFP1

Figure 1. Schematic showing that the chromatin-modifying complex SET1 is targeted to active genes at CpG islands via its component CFP1
(Click to Enlarge)

From bacteria through to yeast and mammals, huge efforts have been made to understand how DNA-encoded information is used. In higher organisms, this includes elucidating how epigenetic factors control the way in which genes are switched on and off. 'We understand a lot about transcription factors that recognise specific DNA sequences,' says Professor Klose, 'but how do we bring in the epigenetic component? Does epigenetic information influence how our DNA sequences are used, thereby supporting complex human processes and ultimately differentiating us from more simple species?'

One important epigenetic feature is chromatin modification, which includes H3K4me - methylation of histone H3 on lysine 4 - a mark that is generally associated with regulatory regions of DNA. 'We know that most actively transcribed genes sit in an epigenetic state that is permissive for gene transcription and that this is associated with H3K4me,' explains Professor Klose. 'Active genes have histones with this methylation, whereas inactive ones don't. But we don't know why or how this happens.'

Work in the Klose lab focuses on understanding epigenetics in the context of CpG islands (CGIs). These are regulatory elements made up of non-methylated CpG dinucleotides. CGIs are associated with promoters and are epigenetically modified, including acquiring H3K4me. However, not all CGIs have high levels of H3K4me, raising the question of how the methylation complex is recruited to the appropriate subset of CGIs so that H3K4me can be placed on them.

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Infection and Disease Processes Seminar Series Professor Maurice Demanou, 'Arboviruses in Cameroon: history, current status, challenges and perspectives' Wednesday 18th Oct, 11:00 Howard Schneiderman Room (third floor), Glycobiology Institute, Rodney Porter Building
Seminar Dr James Shorter, 'Reversing aberrant phase transitions of RNA-binding proteins connected to ALS and FTD' Wednesday 18th Oct, 14:00 Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
SBCB Seminar Series Prof Phil Biggin, 'Are simulations predictive? Some recent case studies on iGluRs and Bromodomains' Thursday 19th Oct, 14:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Seminar Andrew McLean, 'Oxford University Biotech Society Seminar' Thursday 19th Oct, 17:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building

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