LMCB - Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology

Nicholas Bell's picture

LMCB Junior Group Leader, UCL Physics Department Lecturer


LMCB Room 1.04

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Biophysics of genome structure and repair

Research synopsis

Our research group studies the molecular mechanisms of protein-DNA interactions that underpin the structure and maintenance of the genome.  We combine biophysical and biochemical approaches with cutting-edge fluorescence microscopy and force spectroscopy to understand how these proteins function in health and disease.
A particular focus of the lab is the study of DNA repair enzymes. DNA in the cell is constantly subjected to a variety of types of damage such as strand breaks and base modifications. DNA repair enzymes scan the genome for damage and repair them through a number of different pathways.  Failure to correctly repair DNA damage can lead to cancer and other diseases. We are interested in studying the mechanisms of the DNA repair process including how these proteins recognize different DNA damage structures and how small molecule drugs can alter their dynamics. By understanding the fundamental processes by which these proteins work we hope to inform the progression of new therapies.
Our lab also has a strong interest in the development of techniques to study DNA and protein dynamics at high temporal and spatial resolution down to the level of single-molecules. We specialize in force spectroscopy using magnetic tweezers/nanopores and single-molecule fluorescence imaging.  

We welcome enquiries about joining our research group - please contact Dr Nicholas Bell. 

Selected publications

Bell NAW & Molloy JE (2023). Single-molecule force spectroscopy reveals binding and bridging dynamics of PARP1 and PARP2 at DNA double-strand breaks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 120 (22), e2214209120
Chen K, Joi I, Ermann N, Muthukumar M, Keyser UF & Bell NAW (2021). Dynamics of driven polymer transport through a nanopore. Nature Physics 17 (9), 1043-1049
Bell NAW et al (2021). Single-molecule measurements reveal that PARP1 condenses DNA by loop stabilization. Science Advances 7 (33), eabf3641
Bell NAW & Keyser UF (2016). Digitally encoded DNA nanostructures for multiplexed, single-molecule protein sensing with nanopores. Nature nanotechnology 11 (7), 645-651



Research themes

DNA repair
Chromosome structure
Transcriptional regulation
Membrane transport 


Light microscopy
Electron microscopy
Super-resolution microscopy
Single-molecule force spectroscopy
Nanopore technology


Maia Kazakova-Garcia (PhD student)
Giselle Tan (MSci student)
Emily Shim (MSc student)


Hasan Yardimci (Crick Institute)
Sarah Tabrizi (UCL)
Mike Flower (UCL)