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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Water-bridging as an essential component for initiating protein folding
Showing the water bridge in KGPGK A recent publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society from research performed in the McLain Group from DPhil student Nicola Steinke, has focused on investigating the roles that both water and the primary amino acid sequence have in initiating -turn formation in solution Published: 1 June 2018
Royal Society "Designer Malaria Vaccines" Exhibit
Designer Malaria Vaccines Matt Higgins is leading a team presenting at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition in the first week of July. The exhibit will feature a game to try to detect the unchanging elements in a shape-shifting parasite, interactive maps to see the impact of vaccines on global health and 3D models of RH5 binding to basigin and antibodies Published: 19 June 2018
Public Outreach at the Department: students enjoy work placements in the Seiradake lab
Students Arianwen Herbert and Jade Gough in the Seiradake Lab A-level students Arianwen Herbert and Jade Gough recently spent four days at our department to learn molecular biology techniques hands-on and to find out what it is like to be a biochemist Published: 31 May 2018
Funding success for the Biochemistry solution-state NMR facility
950 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer Group leaders in the Departments of Biochemistry (Profs Christina Redfield, Jason Schnell and John Vakonakis) and Chemistry (Profs. Andy Baldwin and Tim Claridge) have secured support towards upgrading the flagship 950 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectrometer, housed in Biochemistry. Published: 15 May 2018

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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

Mediating gene activation during development

The human body is an immensely complex biological machine composed of diverse cells, tissues, and organs. Remarkably, this diversity originates from one single cell, the fertilised egg. This contains all the information, encoded in our DNA as genes, necessary for the development of a fully functional organism. At the heart of forming this diverse complement of cell types is the ability to identify and use a subset of this information at the right time and place during development. When genes are not used in just the right way and at just the right time, normal development is perturbed leading to human disease. Therefore, a central question in human biology is to understand how the usage of genes is controlled in a timely and precise manner during development. This is a prerequisite for understanding how these processes go wrong in disease.

Figure 1. FBXL19 recruits Mediator to CpG islands of developmental genes, priming them for activation upon lineage commitment

Figure 1. FBXL19 recruits Mediator to CpG islands of developmental genes, priming them for activation upon lineage commitment
(Click to Enlarge)

The Klose lab focuses on this important question through understanding the detailed molecular processes that underpin accurate gene usage. In new work published in the journal eLIFE, the Klose lab have uncovered a previously unknown molecular mechanism that controls how certain genes are turned on as cells undergo specialisation, or lineage commitment, during development. In particular, the group discovered that a protein, called FBXL19, physically interacts with a large protein assembly called the Mediator complex. Mediator has been previously shown to play important roles in turning genes on during development, but how it selected the subset of genes that it activates has remained poorly defined.

Through studying the biochemistry of FBXL19 inside the cell, the Klose lab show that FBXL19 can recognize where genes are in the genome, by using a feature called a ZF-CXXC domain to identify DNA sequences called CpG islands. Therefore, FBXL19 effectively tells Mediator which genes it should prepare, or prime, for activation when the right developmental signals are present (Fig 1). The Klose lab discovered this through using stem cells isolated from mouse embryos and genetic engineering to disrupt FBXL19.

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Keep in touch with the Department


SBCB Seminar Series Tone Bengtsen, 'Integrating SAXS, NMR and MD simulations - towards an improved understanding of biophysical systems' Thursday 28th Jun, 14:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
SBMB Seminar Series Zuzanna Siwy, 'Transport through Nanopores: Preparation of Biomimetic Voltage-Gated Channels and Circuits.' Friday 29th Jun, 11:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Seminar Professor Gregor Anderluh, 'Microbial NLP cytolysins employ plant sphingolipids for initial membrane interactions in the cytolytic process' Monday 2nd Jul, 11:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Biochemistry Department Seminar Professor Stephen Taylor, 'Title TBC' Monday 2nd Jul, 13:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building

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Athena Swan Silver Award