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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Oxford iGEM team wins Gold medal and Award for Best Diagnostics Project
iGem Logo The 2017 Oxford University iGEM team have just returned from the competition in Boston with not only a Gold medal but also the extremely competitive award for Best Diagnostics Project in the undergraduate category Published: 16 November 2017
Elena Seiradake elected into 2018 EMBO Young Investigator Programme
Elena Seiradake Elena Seiradake has been elected into the 2018 EMBO Young Investigator Programme. This prestigious programme recognises some of Europe's best young scientists and provides academic, practical and financial support to help them realise their potential as world-class researchers Published: 27 October 2017
Two arms secure gene transcription at the right sites
Alt Text New findings that shed light on how epigenetic components in mammals shape transcription have been published by the Klose group Published: 13 September 2017
New insights into the extracellular regulation of Notch and TGF-beta signaling pathways
Alt Text 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

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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

Protein antibiotic hijacks iron transporter to kill bacterial cells

Colin Kleanthous' lab has shown for the first time how a toxin released by bacteria delivers its toxic payload into cells.

In a recent PNAS paper, the group demonstrates that the bacteriocin hijacks a transporter normally used for bringing iron into the cell, to sneak across the outer membrane (1). The work, funded by the Wellcome Trust and BBSRC, will help on-going efforts to develop bacteriocins, which are naturally occurring protein antimicrobials, as next-generation antibiotics.

Figure 1. FpvA1 transports iron as a complex, Fe-pyoverdine, across the bacterial outer membrane by coupling to the Proton Motive Force (PMF) via the inner membrane protein TonB

Figure 1. FpvA1 transports iron as a complex, Fe-pyoverdine, across the bacterial outer membrane by coupling to the Proton Motive Force (PMF) via the inner membrane protein TonB (Click to Enlarge)

Bacteriocins are produced by bacteria to kill their neighbours during competition for resources. They kill cells through a variety of ways, most often by a protein domain that cleaves nucleic acids in the cytoplasm. Gram-negative bacteria are resistant to several classes of antibiotics because their outer membrane excludes these molecules, contributing to multidrug resistance. Yet the outer membrane is readily bypassed by bacteriocins, which are large, folded proteins. As bacteria do not have recognised protein import systems, it has been a mystery how bacteriocins navigate their way into bacterial cells.

Now work from the Kleanthous lab In this work, carried out largely by Professor Kleanthous' former DPhil student, Paul White, in collaboration with departmental colleagues Christina Redfield and Shabaz Mohammed and collaborators in the Biochemistry Department and at the University of Glasgow has revealed that the bacteriocin pyocin S2 (pyoS2) translocates across the outer membrane in the pathogenic bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa by mimicking the import of iron through its transporter, FpvA1. PyoS2 was known to require FpvAI as a receptor but nothing was known about how the bacteriocin entered the cell. Since pyoS2 is effective in treating P. aeruginosa -induced pneumonia in mouse, the work offers hope that such molecules could be developed as antibiotics.

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Keep in touch with the Department


OUBS/Biochemistry Department Seminar Series 2017-18 Prof Christian Eggeling, 'Title TBC' Wednesday 22nd Nov, 13:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
SBCB Seminar Series Dr Maria Musgaard, 'Linking proton sensors and channel motions in acid-sensing ion channels' Thursday 23rd Nov, 14:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
SBMB Seminar Series Naushad Velgy, Shanlin Rao, 'SBMB Seminars' Friday 24th Nov, 11:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Seminar Dr Julian Duxin, 'Mechanisms of DNA-protein crosslink proteolysis' Friday 24th Nov, 13:00 Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building

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Athena Swan Silver Award