UCL Division of Biosciences


Co-Translational Protein Folding Group

As nascent chains emerge from the ribosomal exit tunnel and into the cellular environment, the majority must fold into specific structures in order to function. Knowledge of how this folding process occurs, and how misfolding is avoided, is central to our understanding of living systems.

We use NMR spectroscopy together with biochemical and biophysical methods to study these co-translational folding processes with atomic resolution, in order to understand the fundamental principles of folding and misfolding within the cellular environment.

Our Research

We are two research groups (John Christodoulou and Lisa Cabrita) and are dedicated to studying how proteins fold into their native structure when they are synthesised in the cell. The human body contains more than 20,000 proteins and all of them are synthesised by ribosomes and can begin to fold co-translationally, during biosynthesis. Understanding this process is a fundamental aim of modern-day biology and crucial to understand the origin of diseases that are caused by protein misfolding. 

We have pioneered the use of NMR spectroscopy to study co-translational protein folding, in combination with cryo-EM, molecular dynamics, biochemical and biophysical methods. This combination of tools has allowed us to obtain detailed insights into the structural and dynamic properties of ribosome-bound nascent polypeptides and understand how these properties influence that fate of the protein after biosynthesis.  

Find out more about our research

Our Team

Christodoulou Lab Group Photo

Our lab is home to a group of talented postdocs and phd students.

Meet the Team 


The Institute of Structural Molecular Biology (ISMB) at UCL and Birkbeck is a multidisciplinary institute that draws together a high level of expertise in structural biology (X-ray crystallography, cryo-EM, NMR, EPR), biophysics and related disciplines.

At work in the wet lab

Several high-field spectrometers are available - multichannel 700, 600, and 500 MHz, equipped with cryogenic probes - and also a biological NMR expert on permanent staff (Dr John Kirkpatrick) to run the facility. We additionally have regular access to 700, 800 and 950 MHz spectrometers at the MRC Biomedical NMR Centre and access to the 900 MHz spectrometer at the HWB Biomolecular NMR facility.

NMR room

We have access to the UCL Legion High Performance ComputIng Facility (Legion@UCL) as well as the UK National Supercomputing Service (ARCHER).