Dr Joanne Santini (Group Leader)
Institute of Structural & Molecular Biology,
University College London,
Darwin Building, Gower Street,
London WC1E 6BT
Research of the group
Our current research involves the study of microorganisms that metabolise toxic metals and metalloids (e.g. arsenic). Two soluble forms of arsenic are found in nature: arsenite [As(III)] and arsenate [As(V)]. Both of these forms are toxic and represent a threat to our health (e.g., in Bangladesh and West Bengal) and environment (owing often to human activities such as mining). Our interest stems from the fact that microbes can use toxic substances such as arsenic for growth, by using arsenate as an electron acceptor (i.e., for respiration) or arsenite as an electron donor (with either oxygen or nitrate as an electron acceptor). The areas we are interested in addressing are: (1) how do microbes use arsenic for growth (i.e. what is the mechanism)?, (2) how is the metabolism regulated?, 3) what is the distribution and abundance of the genes that encode these properties, in various environments, (4) what is the role of these organisms in the cycling of arsenic in the environment, (5) what is the origin of the enzymes involved in the metabolism and (6) how can we use the metabolic enzymes for biosensors or organisms for bioremediation?
Microbial metabolism, metalloproteins, evolution of metabolic enzymes, biosensors, bioremediation, gene regulation