Departmental researchers win Investigator Awards
Ben Berks and Kim Nasmyth have been awarded Investigator Awards from the Wellcome Trust in the recent funding round.
Professor Berks will use the 5 year grant to explore the bacterial Tat protein translocase. The Tat transport system is unusual because it is able to export folded proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane. This includes proteins that are required for the virulence of most human bacterial pathogens.
Although the group has solved the high-resolution structures of the individual Tat components, little is known about the structure and behaviour of the assembled translocation complex. Professor Berks and his group will use novel approaches to study this complex and answer key questions about its mechanism.
Their work will provide insight into how folded proteins are moved across tightly sealed membranes and will underpin efforts to exploit the Tat pathway for the production of proteins of therapeutic or biotechnological use.
Professor Nasmyth's 7 year Investigator Award focuses on the proteins responsible for sister chromatid cohesion, which ensures that sister DNAs are pulled in opposite directions during mitosis.
Studying the process in a range of organisms from yeast to mammalian cells, Professor Nasmyth's group will focus on two protein complexes - cohesin and condensin. The structure of cohesin, the ring that traps sister DNAs, has been studied intensely by the group. They now hope to explore whether entrapment is the only mechanism by which cohesin holds DNA together and elucidate how DNAs enter and exit cohesin rings. Their work on condensin will look at how it holds DNA within chromatids together.
The programme of work will contribute to a fuller understanding of chromosome biology and provide insight into disorders such as trisomy 21 and age-related female infertility.