Biochemistry researchers make an impact at top biophysics meeting
Members of the department have returned from the Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in Baltimore with numerous recognitions for their work.
The department's Structural Bioinformatics and Computational Biochemistry (SBCB) Unit, led by Mark Sansom and Phil Biggin, made a particularly notable contribution to the meeting.
The biggest biophysics meeting in the world attracts almost 7000 scientists. Participants gather at this key event to hear about current and future trends in the field. For young researchers in particular the meeting offers an efficient platform for them to present and discuss their projects.
George (third from right) and other awardees at the presentation
DPhil student George Hedger scooped one of the poster prizes. George, who is supported by an MRC studentship, was presented with the SRAA ('Student Research Achievement Award') for research in the Membrane Structure and Assembly category. The award recognises the work of young researchers in the biophysics field and was presented by the Biophysical Society President Dorothy Beckett during the National Lecture delivered by Professor Klaus Schulten.
George's work focuses on the information revealed by computer simulation of interactions between membrane proteins and their surrounding lipids. The abstract he presented was entitled 'Local Bilayer Reorganisations by the Juxtamembrane Regions of All 58 Human Receptor Tyrosine Kinases: A Multiscale Molecular Dynamics Study'. The project is jointly supervised by Heidi Koldsø and Mark Sansom.
The group applied multiscale molecular dynamics simulations to reveal the ability of the juxtamembrane (JM) regions of the human Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTK) family to induce local clustering of anionic lipids, and in particular PIP2, into ordered ring-like patterns around the receptors.
George is in the first year of his DPhil and has spent this year, as well as his Masters year in Oxford, working on the project.
Heidi's image: 'Influenza A virion on a mammalian plasma membrane'. GM3 glycolipids (green) on, and single transmembrane signalling proteins (orange) within, the host mammalian membrane. Forssman glycolipids (yellow), hemagglutinin proteins (red) and neuraminidase proteins (blue) of the virion. (Click to enlarge)
Heidi Koldsø, a postdoc in the Sansom lab, also came away from the meeting with an award. She won second place in the 'Art of Science' Image Contest for her submission 'Influenza A virion on a mammalian plasma membrane'.
The striking image was amongst those shortlisted before the meeting on the basis of scientific significance, originality, and artistic and/or visual impact. Attendees at the meeting then voted for their favourite image.
Heidi comments that the image is very timely because it is being used to promote a forthcoming paper from Tyler Reddy, a postdoctoral fellow in the Sansom lab. 'The construction of the image is based on a project Tyler and myself are doing, where we combine his work on building the 'flu virion with my work on constructing realistic mammalian membranes,' she comments.
Last year, Matthieu Chavent, another member of the SBCB Unit, won the same competition for his image visualising collective lipid motions in a vesicle.
Anthony Watts in the department also received an award at the Biophysical Society meeting.
Biophysical Society President Dorothy Beckett presented Professor Watts with the 2015 Anatrace Membrane Protein Award (see photo below), a prestigious award that has been given to only one other British scientist.
The award recognises Professor Watts' innovative development of spectroscopic methodologies, which has provided novel insights into membrane protein structure and function (see www.bioch.ox.ac.uk/aspsite/index.asp?pageid=1162)
In his lecture entitled 'Membrane proteins need lipids', he reviewed his work of over 40 years on the functional significance of lipid-protein interactions in the context of the recent resurgence in the field.
Other departmental contributors to the Biophysical Society meeting include Phil Biggin who gave a talk on the dynamic properties of the GABA_A receptor and how they might relate to gating. DPhil student Matteo Aldeghi spoke on the prediction of absolute binding free energies for bromodomain inhibitors and Marko Sustarsic talked about his DNA polymerase work. Maria Musgaard, Jo Lee and Laura Domicevica all gave poster presentations.