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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Key step in cellular glycosylation revealed in new crystal structure of a Golgi nucleotide sugar transporter
Cartoon to show Notch ligands interact with membrane as well as with the Notch receptor via their C2 domain (shown in pale green) New research by the Newstead group, published in Nature, reveals the first crystal structure for a member of the nucleotide sugar transporter (NST) superfamily and provides fundamental new insights into how glycosylation is regulated in the cell Published: 29 November 2017
Prof Tony Watts swaps the lab bench for the back bench
Prof Tony Watts Tony Watts has been paired with Ms Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abindgon, for the 17th Royal Society scientists' pairing scheme. This innovative scheme pairs scientists with parliamentarians and civil servants. Published: 21 December 2017
Kim Nasmyth 2018 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
Alt Text Our congratulations to Kim Nasmyth on the award of the 2018 Breakthrough Prize ('The Oscars of Science') in Life Sciences. See also: Published: 4 December 2017
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

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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

A new class of ion pump inhibitors could help fight infectious fungi

A) Cartoon representation of the Ca2+-pump bound to a HyC (labeled 7). Pump domains and ligands are indicated. The bound HyC and ATP analogue TNPATP are shown as sticks (C: yellow or marine, O: red, Br: dark red, F: pale cyan, N: blue, P: orange) B) Sliced surface view revealing the the ligand-binding pocket at the membrane interface.

A) Cartoon representation of the Ca2+-pump bound to a HyC (labeled 7). Pump domains and ligands are indicated. The bound HyC and ATP analogue TNPATP are shown as sticks (C: yellow or marine, O: red, Br: dark red, F: pale cyan, N: blue, P: orange) B) Sliced surface view revealing the the ligand-binding pocket at the membrane interface.
(Click to Enlarge)

New research by the Bublitz group in collaboration with the Danish drug discovery company PCovery, describes a new class of compounds that inhibit the growth of fungal cells by disrupting their plasma membrane potential.

Fungal infections cause millions of deaths worldwide and safer, broad-spectrum drugs are urgently needed. In fungi, protons are pumped across the cellular plasma membranes to build up an electrochemical potential that is used to import essential nutrients, such as glucose and amino acids. The potential is built up by a large and complicated enzyme, an ATP-driven proton pump. This pump is conserved in all fungi and is essential for their survival. Notably, as there is no counterpart of this enzyme in humans, researchers at PCovery have been screening for compounds that would shut it down and thereby kill infectious fungi.

In a new research article published in PLOS ONE, work from the Bublitz lab and PCovery, has revealed a new class of small molecule compounds, known as tetrahydrocarbazoles (HyCs), that are potent inhibitors of the fungal proton pump. These compounds cause a breakdown of the membrane potential in fungal cells and inhibit the growth of fungi in laboratory cultures. In order to understand, how HyCs act on the proton pump, the researchers needed a three-dimensional molecular model of the pump bound to one of the compounds. However, as it was not straightforward to obtain high resolution structural information on the fungal proton pump, Bublitz and co-workers took advantage of an otherwise undesired side effect: the set of HyCs they used were not specific to the fungal proton pump but also inhibited a related mammalian Ca2+-pump. By exploiting this cross-reactivity, they succeeded in determining a crystal structure of the Ca2+-pump bound to a HyC.

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SBMB Seminar Series Henry Sawczyc, Nick Michelarakis, 'SBMB Seminars' Friday 19th Jan, 11:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Microbiology and Systems Biology (MSB) seminars, Department of Biochemistry Dr Gemma Fisher, Nick Housden, 'Talk 1: "The MukBEF complex: reconstitution of its loading onto DNA and exploration of the role of conformational dynamics "; Talk 2: "The nuclease bacteriocins of Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Klebsiella pneumonia' Sunday 21st Jan, 11:00 Main Seminar room, New Biochemistry Building
Biochemistry Department Seminar Professor Jake Baum, 'Lights, Camera, Action! Antimalarial drug discovery using a microscope' Monday 22nd Jan, 13:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building
Seminar Professor Helen Walden, ''Inhibition and activation of Parkin, an enzyme mutated in Parkinson's Disease'' Tuesday 23rd Jan, 14:00 Main Seminar Room, New Biochemistry Building

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Athena Swan Silver Award