Membranes and their protein organization are a frontier in our understanding of cell biology. We focus on polarized trafficking as a model to uncover fundamental mechanisms in the organization of structures at membranes. We aim to understand the role of protein complexes including the exocyst. This project seeks to answer mechanistic questions regarding 1) the regulation of protein structural mechanics in polarized trafficking, 2) and the consequences of signaling on this pathway and its organization.
The overarching goal of our research is to identify and characterise the protein kinase signalling pathways that control stem cell pluripotency and differentiation, and determine how protein kinase signalling is disrupted to cause human developmental disorders.
Climate change is one of the biggest threats to global food production, leading to unpredictable weather patterns and geographical migration of pathogens. As sessile organisms, plants must respond to a changing environment in situ and have developed complex systems of perception and response to mitigate against environmental stress. As energy resources are finite plants must balance responses to pathogens and environmental stress with growth and developmental pathways. This can affect crop production if biomass or grain yield is supressed by environmental circumstances.
Supervisors: Dr Martin Balcerowicz and Dr Sarah McKim, Division of Plant Sciences
The epigenetic mark of DNA methylation is established by DNMT (DNA methyltransferase) enzymes and has been shown to correlate with transcriptional states and influence cell identity and tumorigenesis in mammalian cells.
The human genome is spatially organised at multiple levels within the nucleus during interphase. Chromatin loops are basic units of genome organisation  – they span tens to hundreds kilobases of DNA and often facilitate enhancer–promoter interaction for gene expression. The formation of a chromatin loop relies on cohesins and the CCCTC-binding factor (CTCF). The 4C and Hi-C analyses revealed formation of chromatin loops genome-wide. However, it is still unclear how the conformations of chromatin loops change over time and what molecular mechanisms regulate such changes.
Supervisors: Dr Piers Hemsley, Prof Paul Birch (University of Dundee, Division of Plant Sciences and Prof Terry Smith (University of St Andrews)
Our lab investigates the function the PINK1 kinase which is mutated in Parkinson’s disease and is a master-regulator of mitophagy. Our lab has recently found a link between the Parkinson’s associated protein kinase PINK1 and a subset of Rab GTPases. PINK1 phosphorylates Rabs at a highly conserved Serine111 residue within the SF3 subdomain. The project will investigate the role of this phosphorylation site and this project will employ state-of-the-art methods to uncover the regulation of Rabs by PINK1 in cells.