Structural and Molecular Biology


SMB News

Thalassinos lab celebrates a successful PhD viva

Congratulations to Dr Juliette James, a Wellcome Trust-funded student supervised by Dr Kostas Thalassinos, for successfully defending her PhD thesis entitled "XLIM-MS towards the Development of a Novel approach to Cross-linking Mass Spectrometry" on 22 November.
Soon after her Viva, part of her PhD work was published in Analytical Chemistry.
We wish Juliette well for her future research career.

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New, giant bacterial virus found in human gut

A new giant virus that infects bacteria commonly found in the human gut has been discovered by an international team led by researchers from UCL and UC Berkeley.
A study, co-authored by Professor Joanne Santini and published in Nature Microbiology, describes the discovery of Lak phage and reports that they specifically infect bacteria called Prevotella which live in all people but most notably those who have a traditional ‘hunter gatherer’ high in fibre and low in fat.

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SMB celebrates a successful PhD viva

Congratulations to Dr Xenia Spencer-Milnes, a BBSRC-funded student supervised by Professor Saul Purton for successfully defending her PhD thesis entitled "Towards engineering the microalga Chorella sorokiniana for the production of high-value oils" on 7 November.
We wish Xenia well for her future research career.

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SMB alumna receives prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science award

Congratulations to Dr Lamya Al-Haj, a former PhD student in Professor Saul Purton’s group (now Assistant Professor in Molecular Biology at Sultan Qaboos University, Oman) who is the recipient of a prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science International Award.
Lamya is one of five laureates honoured for their contributions to the advancement of science in the Middle East region.

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The Purton group celebrates a major funding success

Professor Saul Purton (SMB) has been successful in securing major funding from the BBSRC to run a UK-wide network in algal biotechnology. The award is part of a £11 million second phase investment by BBSRC and EPSRC to support 'Networks in Biotechnology and Bioenergy' (NIBB).
The six awards aim to build capacity and capability in biologically based manufacturing processes by fostering collaboration between academic researchers, industry and other stakeholders.
The algal NIBB, called 'Algae-UK' will run for five years from 2019, and builds on the tremendous success of the phase I NIBB, PHYCONET of which Saul is the Director.

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Success in the EMBO Young Investigator Programme

We are very pleased to congratulate Alan Cheung who is among 26 life science researchers across Europe selected to become EMBO Young Investigators. Each year EMBO selects some of the very best junior group leaders in Europe to join this programme through a very competitive selection process. Congratulations also to Anthony Roberts, a Birkbeck member of the joint UCL/Birkbeck Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology who has also been selected. The EMBO Young Investigator Programme provides a wide range of benefits all aimed at helping awardees to become internationally successful research group leaders. These include many networking and leadership training opportunities.

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Biosciences student receives the Microbiology Society Undergraduate Prize

Congratulations to UCL Biosciences student Joe Phillips on being awarded the Microbiology Society Undergraduate Prize for outstanding academic achievement. Joe was nominated by Professor Saul Purton and the award presented by Professor Jo Santini (Lead of the Microbiology@UCL Domain).

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Senior Promotions 2018

Congratulations to all colleagues whose achievements have been recognised in the most recent round of Senior Promotions. This year has been exceptional in terms of the number of applications received and successful promotions. We proudly present a list of Divisional promotees:

Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment

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Article co-authored by Matilda Katan highlights the importance of embracing virtual reality by the higher education community

Authors of the article published in the Times Higher Education in May argue that failure to engage by universities with immersive technologies presents a wasted opportunity. These innovations have the potential to enhance interactions with external stakeholders and alumni and can be employed to aid greater research and education integration.

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Congratulations to Professor Andres Ramos for his new MRC Program grant

Professor Andres Ramos (research profile) has been awarded an MRC Program grant entitled: 'Molecular mechanisms regulating mRNA transport and local translation in neurons'.
The research will investigate the crucial role played by RNA binding proteins in the regulation of the transport and translation of mRNAs in dendritic and axonal locations. The regulation of mRNA translation in space and time creates distinct local biochemical environments in the cell, which are essential in mediating inter-neuronal communication and establishing neuronal networks. This MRC programme is a collaboration between groups at ISMB, the UCL Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, the Francis Crick Institute, the UCL Institute of Neurology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. The grant will run from 2018 to 2023.

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"CHC22 Clathrin Diverts GLUT4 from the ER-to-Golgi Intermediate Compartment for Intracellular Sequestration" - new preprint by the Brodsky lab

Abstract: The Glucose Transporter 4 (GLUT4) in muscle and adipose tissue mediates post-prandial blood glucose clearance by insulin-stimulated GLUT4 translocation to the cell surface from an intracellular GLUT4 storage compartment (GSC). Deregulation of this process establishes insulin resistance and contributes to pathogenesis of type-2 diabetes (T2D). Endocytic pathways targeting GLUT4 to the GSC after insulin-mediated release have been defined extensively in rodent models. Here we map the biosynthetic trafficking pathway leading to initial GSC formation, which is less characterised, and differs between humans and rodents. In human muscle and adipocytes, GSC formation involves the non-canonical isoform of clathrin, CHC22, which does not mediate endocytosis and accumulates at sites of GLUT4 sequestration during insulin resistance. Mice have lost the CLTCL1 gene encoding CHC22, and use conventional CHC17 clathrin for GSC formation by endocytic pathways that do not replace CHC22 function in human GSC formation. Here we report that CHC22 controls GLUT4 transport from the ER-to-Golgi intermediate compartment (ERGIC) in an unconventional secretory pathway, bypassing the Golgi, to form the human GSC. This specialized route for human GLUT4 membrane traffic has relevance for understanding insulin resistance.

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"CHC22 and CHC17 clathrins have distinct biochemical properties and display differential regulation and function" - new paper by the Brodsky lab

Abstract: Clathrins are cytoplasmic proteins that play essential roles in endocytosis and other membrane traffic pathways. Upon recruitment to intracellular membranes, the canonical clathrin triskelion assembles into a polyhedral protein coat that facilitates vesicle formation and captures cargo molecules for transport. The triskelion is formed by trimerization of three clathrin heavy-chain subunits. Most vertebrates have two isoforms of clathrin heavy chains, CHC17 and CHC22, generating two clathrins with distinct cellular functions. CHC17 forms vesicles at the plasma membrane for receptor-mediated endocytosis and at the trans-Golgi network for organelle biogenesis. CHC22 plays a key role in intracellular targeting of the insulin-regulated glucose transporter 4 (GLUT4), accumulates at the site of GLUT4 sequestration during insulin resistance, and has also been implicated in neuronal development. Here, we demonstrate that CHC22 and CHC17 share morphological features, in that CHC22 forms a triskelion and latticed vesicle coats. However, cellular CHC22-coated vesicles were distinct from those formed by CHC17. The CHC22 coat was more stable to pH change and was not removed by the enzyme complex that disassembles the CHC17 coat. Moreover, the two clathrins were differentially recruited to membranes by adaptors, and CHC22 did not support vesicle formation or transferrin endocytosis at the plasma membrane in the presence or absence of CHC17. Our findings provide biochemical evidence for separate regulation and distinct functional niches for CHC17 and CHC22 in human cells. Furthermore, the greater stability of the CHC22 coat relative to the CHC17 coat may be relevant to its excessive accumulation with GLUT4 during insulin resistance.

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Dr Filipe Cabreiro receives the EMBO Young Investigators award

We are pleased to announce Dr Filipe Cabreiro has been awarded the prestigious EMBO Young Investigators award in recognition to his exceptional research and scientific potential.
Through the programme, EMBO identifies and supports some of the best researchers under 40 years of age who are in the process of establishing their own laboratory.
In the most recent round of applications the programme received 224 eligible applications out of which 28 young researchers were selected to join a network of 47 current Young Investigators.
Please join us in congratulating Dr Cabreiro.

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Drs Ruddy (SMB) and Mambetisaeva (GEE) receive HEA/UCL Arena Certificates

Please join us in congratulating Drs Suzanne Ruddy (SMB) and Elvira Mambetisaeva (GEE) who have received their HEA/UCL Arena Certificates - Senior Fellowship and Fellowship accordingly.
UCL Arena is UCL's professional development pathway for teaching: a scheme of awards accredited by the Higher Education Academy giving teaching and support staff nationally recognised fellowships.

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Low iron levels may increase risk of heart disease

People with low iron levels may be at greater risk of heart disease, according to a new study involving UCL scientists.
Researchers analysing genetic data have uncovered a potential protective effect of iron in coronary artery disease, suggesting that having a higher iron status reduces a person’s risk of coronary artery disease (CAD), a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD) where clogged arteries reduce the amount of blood reaching the heart.
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