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Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences
Sinclair Annex SNA1.01
Vice Chancellor's Research Fellow in Biology
I am a plant cell biologist and protein biochemist at Oxford Brookes University with expertise in the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum (ER), membrane proteins and auxin biosynthesis using biochemical techniques as well as high-resolution live cell imaging.
Areas of Expertise:
Over the last 10 years I have developed a research pathway in auxin biosynthesis going back to my degree and PhD work at the Technical University of Munich where I studied the nitrilase pathway in maize auxin biosynthesis and maize tryptophan synthase complex.
A short-term position at Oxford Brookes just after my PhD allowed me to expand my expertise to ER and Golgi as well as acquiring skills in live cell imaging.
I further investigated membrane proteins and the targeting of tail-anchored proteins at Sheffield Hallam University. Here I pursued my scientific interests in subcellular protein localisation, bioinformatics, and mathematical modelling. My additional independent research on ER localisation and splicing in auxin biosynthesis showed for the first time ER-localisation for an auxin biosynthetic protein. Based on this work I won a fellowship from the Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies to investigate the subcellular localisation of maize auxin biosynthesis at Dankook University in Seoul which lead to a publication that showed for the first time that both steps of the TAA/YUC pathway of auxin biosynthesis can be ER-localised. I am committed to interdisciplinary research, and an example of the successes gained from this approach is the project with Prof A Nabok (Engineering Sheffield Hallam University) using total internal reflection ellipsometry to quantify protein-membrane interactions on native plant membranes and human cell lines.
I took up a position at Oxford Brookes University in 2012 investigating the role of reticulon proteins in ER tubulation and viral trafficking in order to develop my international reputation in ER research and advanced imaging. I published the first report of plant ER reticulon protein interactors by Co-IP and FRET-FLIM. Through this I established important collaborative links with physicists at the STFC Lasers for Science Facility at the Harwell Campus.
As I have a strong interest in translational research I wrote and lead a Leverhulme research grant (“pMMO in plants”) with senior Brookes staff (Dr Deborah Pearce) and in collaboration with Prof Tom Smith from Sheffield Hallam University. Here I aim to engineer plants to convert methane into carbon dioxide. Due to my interest in linking academia and industry I am part of the Faculty Innovation Team at Oxford Brookes and Innovation Forum Oxford as an Oxford Brookes representative. I am also a member of BBSRC Networks in Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy: C1Net, Plant to Product Network, and High Value Chemicals from Plants Network.
My current research aims to link the structure and function of the plant endoplasmic reticulum with auxin biosynthesis.
-Leverhulme Trust “pMMO in plants” with D. Pearce and C. Hawes (Dec 2015 to Nov 2017).
-STFC Harwell access grant with C. Hawes (Jan to March 2017).
-Fellowship Korean Federation of Science and Technology Societies (March to June 2013).
-Engineering for life Feasibility Study Grant with A. Nabok, D. Smith and B. Abell 2011 “Visualising the interaction of proteins in biological membranes for diagnosis of diseases”.
-Engineering for life pump prime funding with A. Nabok and B. Abell 2010 “Visualising the interaction of proteins in biological membranes for diagnosis of diseases”.
In Pflanzen ist die Aminosäure Tryptophan zusätzlich zu ihrer Rolle in der Proteinbiosynthese Ausgangspunkt für die Synthese zahlreicher Phytohormone und Sekundärmetabolite. Im Rahmen dieser Arbeit wurden verschiedene potentielle Kandidatengene auf eine Beteiligung am Tryptophansynthase-Komplex in Mais hin untersucht. Dieser Komplex katalysiert die Bildung von Indol aus Indol-3-Glycerinphosphat und die Kondensation von Indol und Serin zu Tryptophan.Ein wichtiges Tryptophanderivat im Pflanzenreich ist das am häufigsten vorkommende Auxin Indol-3-Essigsäure (IAA). IAA ist an zahlreichen Prozessen wie Apikaldominanz, Seitenwurzelbildung, Embryonalentwicklung und Tropismen beteiligt. Als Kandidatengene der Auxinbiosynthese in Mais (Zea mays) wurden neben einer Amidase (ZmAmi1) auch zwei Nitrilasegene (ZmNit1 und ZmNit2) isoliert. Expression von ZmNIT2, Enzymparameter und Mutantenphänotyp machen eine Beteiligung dieser Nitrilase an der Auxinbiosynthese im Korn und jungen Primärwurzeln wahrscheinlich. In vitro bilden ZmNIT1 und ZmNIT2 hochmolekulare heteromere Komplexe, die neben IAN auch beta-Cyanoalanin, das als Intermediat der Cyanid-Detoxifikation diskutiert wird, hydrolysieren.
The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a highly dynamic polygonal membrane network composed of interconnected tubules and sheets (cisternae) that forms the first compartment in the secretory pathway involved in protein translocation, folding, glycosylation, quality control, lipid synthesis, calcium signalling, and metabolon formation. Despite its central role in this plethora of biosynthetic, metabolic and physiological processes, there is little quantitative information on ER structure, morphology or dynamics. Here we describe a software package (AnalyzER) to automatically extract ER tubules and cisternae from multi-dimensional fluorescence images of plant ER. The structure, topology, protein-localisation patterns, and dynamics are automatically quantified using spatial, intensity and graph-theoretic metrics. We validate the method against manually-traced ground-truth networks, and calibrate the sub-resolution width estimates against ER profiles identified in serial block-face SEM images. We apply the approach to quantify the effects on ER morphology of drug treatments, abiotic stress and over-expression of ER tubule-shaping and cisternal-modifying proteins.
The ER is a ubiquitous organelle that plays roles in secretory protein production, folding, quality control, and lipid biosynthesis. The cortical ER in plants is pleomorphic and structured as a tubular network capable of morphing into flat cisternae, mainly at three way junctions, and back to tubules. Plant reticulon (RTNLB) proteins tubulate the ER by dimer- and oligomerization, creating localised ER membrane tensions that result in membrane curvature. Some RTNLB ER-shaping proteins are present in the plasmodesmal (PD) proteome (Fernandez-Calvino et al., 2011) and may contribute to the formation of the desmotubule, the axial ER-derived structure that traverses primary PD (Knox et al., 2015). Here we investigate the binding partners of two PD-resident reticulon proteins, RTNLB3 and RTNLB6, that are located in primary PD at cytokinesis (Knox et al., 2015). Co-immunoprecipitation of GFP-tagged RTNLB3 and RTNLB6 followed by mass spectrometry detected a high percentage of known PD-localised proteins as well as plasma-membrane proteins with putative membrane anchoring roles. FRET-FLIM assays revealed a highly significant interaction of the detected PD proteins with the bait RTNLB proteins. Our data suggest that RTNLB proteins, in addition to a role in ER modelling, may play important roles in linking the cortical ER to the plasma membrane.
Auxin is a major growth hormone in plants and the first plant hormone to be discovered and studied. Active research over more than sixty years has shed light on many of the molecular mechanisms of its action including transport, perception, signal transduction and a variety of biosynthetic pathways in various species, tissues and developmental stages. The complexity and redundancy of the auxin biosynthetic network and enzymes involved raises the question how such a system, producing such a potent agent as auxin, can be appropriately controlled at all. Here we show that maize auxin biosynthesis takes place in microsomal as well as cytosolic cellular fractions from maize seedlings. Most interestingly, a set of enzymes shown to be involved in auxin biosynthesis via their activity and/or mutant phenotypes and catalysing adjacent steps in YUCCA-dependent biosynthesis are localised to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). Positioning of auxin biosynthetic enzymes at the endoplasmic reticulum could be necessary to bring auxin biosynthesis in closer proximity to ER-localised factors for transport, conjugation and signalling and allow for an additional level of regulation by subcellular compartmentation of auxin action. Furthermore it might provide a link to ethylene action and be a factor in hormonal crosstalk as all five ethylene receptors are ER-localised.
Primary plasmodesmata (PD) arise at cytokinesis when the new cell plate forms. During this process, fine strands of endoplasmic reticulum are laid down between enlarging Golgi-derived vesicles to form nascent PD, each pore containing a desmotubule, a membranous rod derived from the cortical ER. Little is known about the forces that model the ER during cell-plate formation. Here we show that members of the reticulon (RTNLB) family of ER-tubulating proteins may play a role in formation of the desmotubule. RTNLB3 and RTNLB6, two RTNLBs present in the PD proteome, are recruited to the cell plate at late telophase, when primary PD are formed, and remain associated with primary PD in the mature cell wall. Both RTNLBs showed significant co-localisation at PD with the viral movement protein of tobacco mosaic virus while super-resolution imaging (3D-SIM) of primary PD revealed the central desmotubule to be labelled by RTNLB6. FRAP studies showed that these RTNLBs are mobile at the edge of the developing cell plate, where new wall materials are being delivered, but significantly less mobile at its centre where PD are forming. A truncated RTNLB3, unable to constrict the ER, was not recruited to the cell plate at cytokinesis. We discuss the potential roles of RTNLBs in desmotubule formation
The endoplasmic reticulum forms the first compartment in a series of organelles which comprise the secretory pathway. It takes the form of an extremely dynamic and pleomorphic membrane bounded network of tubules and cisternae which have numerous different cellular functions. In this review we discuss the nature of endoplasmic reticulum structure and dynamics, its relationship with closely associated organelles, and its possible function as a highway for the distribution and delivery of a diverse range of structures from metabolic complexes to viral particles.
Background: Certain members of the Camelidae family produce a special type of antibody with only one heavy chain. The antigen binding domains are the smallest functional fragments of these heavy-chain only antibodies and as a consequence have been termed nanobodies. Discovery of these nanobodies has allowed the development of a number of therapeutic proteins and tools.In this study a class of nanobodies fused to fluorescent proteins (chromobodies), and therefore allowing antigen-binding and visualisation by fluorescence, have been used. Such chromobodies can be expressed in living cells and used as genetically encoded immunocytochemical markers.
Results: Here a modified version of the commercially available Actin-Chromobody® as a novel tool for visualising actin dynamics in tobacco leaf cells was tested. The actin-chromobody binds to actin in a specific manner. Treatment with latrunculin B, a drug which disrupts the actin cytoskeleton through inhibition of polymerisation results in loss of fluorescence after less than 30 min but this can be rapidly restored by washing out latrunculin B and thereby allowing the actin filaments to repolymerise.
To test the effect of the actin-chromobody on actin dynamics and compare it to one of the conventional labelling probes, Lifeact, the effect of both probes on Golgi movement was studied as the motility of Golgi bodies is largely dependent on the actin cytoskeleton. With the actin-chromobody expressed in cells, Golgi body movement was slowed down but the manner of movement rather than speed was affected less than with Lifeact.
Conclusions: The actin-chromobody technique presented in this study provides a novel option for in vivo labelling ofthe actin cytoskeleton in comparison to conventionally used probes that are based on actin binding proteins.
The actin-chromobody is particularly beneficial to study actin dynamics in plant cells as it does label actin without impairing dynamic movement and polymerisation of the actin filaments.
This work describes a detailed quantitative interaction study between the novel plastidial chaperone receptor OEP61 and isoforms of the chaperone types Hsp70 and Hsp90 using the optical method of total internal reflection ellipsometry (TIRE). The receptor OEP61 was electrostatically immobilized on a gold surface via an intermediate layer of polycations. The TIRE measurements allowed the evaluation of thickness changes in the adsorbed molecular layers as a result of chaperone binding to receptor proteins. Hsp70 chaperone isoforms but not Hsp90 were shown to be capable of binding OEP61. Dynamic TIRE measurements were carried out to evaluate the affinity constants of the above reactions and resulted in clear discrimination between specific and nonspecific binding of chaperones as well as differences in binding properties between the highly similar Hsp70 isoforms.
Tail-anchored (TA) proteins function in key cellular processes in eukaryotic cells, such as vesicle trafficking, protein translocation and regulation of transcription. They anchor to internal cell membranes by a C-terminal transmembrane domain, which also serves as a targeting sequence. Targeting occurs post-translationally, via pathways that are specific to the precursor, which makes TA proteins a model system for investigating post-translational protein targeting. Bioinformatics approaches have previously been used to identify potential TA proteins in yeast and humans, yet little is known about TA proteins in plants. The identification of plant TA proteins is important for extending the post-translational model system to plastids, in addition to general proteome characterization, and the identification of functional homologues characterized in other organisms. We identified 454 loci that potentially encode TA proteins in Arabidopsis, and combined published data with new localization experiments to assign localizations to 130 proteins, including 29 associated with plastids. By analysing the tail anchor sequences of characterized proteins, we have developed a tool for predicting localization and estimate that 138 TA proteins are localized to plastids.
Golgins are large coiled-coil proteins that play a role in tethering of vesicles to Golgi membranes and in maintaining the overall structure of the Golgi apparatus. Six Arabidopsis proteins with the structural characteristics of golgins were isolated and shown to locate to Golgi stacks when fused to GFP. Two of these golgin candidates (GC1 and GC2) possess C-terminal transmembrane (TM) domains with similarity to the TM domain of human golgin-84. The C-termini of two others (GC3/GDAP1 and GC4) contain conserved GRAB and GA1 domains that are also found in yeast Rud3p and human GMAP210. GC5 shares similarity with yeast Sgm1p and human TMF and GC6 with yeast Uso1p and human p115. When fused to GFP, the C-terminal domains of AtCASP and GC1 to GC6 localized to the Golgi, showing that they contain Golgi localization motifs. The N-termini, on the other hand, label the cytosol or nucleus. Immuno-gold labelling and co-expression with the cis Golgi Q-SNARE Memb11 resulted in a more detailed picture of the sub-Golgi location of some of these putative golgins. Using two independent assays it is further demonstrated that the interaction between GC5, the TMF homologue, and the Rab6 homologues is conserved in plants.
A number of pathways starting from tryptophan have been proposed for the biosynthesis of the auxin indole-3-acetic acid (IAA), a key regulator of plant development. Many aspects of auxin metabolism have been investigated in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana that, in addition to IAA, synthesizes tryptophan-derived indole glucosinolates and camalexin as defence compounds. This results in a complex metabolic network, which makes it difficult to assign specific enzymatic functions and biosynthetic genes to IAA biosynthesis. In this review, the
Arabidopsis system is compared to the maize system, where the branch point between IAA and secondary metabolite biosynthesis occurs prior to tryptophan.
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