Professor Tracy Palmer, Head of the Division of Molecular Microbiology, was awarded two BBSRC grants in their recent funding round which will bring £0.75 million to the College of Life Sciences at the University of Dundee. She has been awarded £0.4 million for a postdoc grant entitled ‘Coordinating different protein translocation machineries during assembly of a membrane protein’ and £07.M (£0.35 million to UoD) for a 2 postdoc grant ‘Exploiting the structure of the twin-arginine protein translocase core’ which will fund one postdoc in Dundee and one in Oxford.
Tracy’s research aims to understand the molecular details of protein export in bacteria. All bacteria export proteins, and this is essential for them to colonize their environments and for pathogenic microbes to cause disease. Her previous work helped to discover a novel protein exporter called Tat that bacteria use to transport pre-folded proteins.
This new funding builds on a series of recent breakthroughs, including the first report of the high resolution crystal structure of the core TatC component [Nature (2012) 492: 210-214]. The funding will exploit the TatC structure with the aim of producing a molecular-level understanding of the mechanism of Tat transport. It will also look at how the Tat exporter works together with other protein transporters to co-ordinate the export of essential proteins in pathogenic bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis.
Tracy’s research is not just driven by scientific curiosity, but might ultimately pave the way for the development of antibiotic compounds that block protein transport processes in pathogenic bacteria, rendering them harmless. A detailed understanding of the Tat transporter also offers the potential to exploit the system to engineer bacteria secrete ‘foreign’ proteins of pharmaceutical and industrial importance.