Living Systems Institute

Gold Group

Research Projects

Bacteriophage infection

Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. We are studying the infection cycle of the f1 filamentous bacteriophage, a strikingly simple phage comprised of just 5 proteins. The f1 phage does not lyse its host bacteria, but rather encodes a protein called pIV that becomes inserted into bacterial outer membranes, allowing phage to egress.  Using single-particle cryo-electron microscopy, we have determined the structure of pIV at near-atomic resolution. The structure is now being used to guide experiments aimed to address mechanism, with wide-ranging implications for phage display in bio-technology to phage therapy in medicine.

PhD position available for September 2023! Please contact for further information

The structure of pIV determined by single-particle cryoEM

The bacterial type IV pilus assembly machinery

The type IV pilus is a long filamentous appendage assembled on the surface of bacteria. It is used for cell motility and in many cases genetic exchange, which can lead to development of pathogenicity and antimicrobial resistance.

The machinery that assembles type IV pili is a multi-component trans-membrane complex. We employ in situ cryo-electron tomography to understand more about the structure and function of the entire machinery, in combination with single-particle analysis to determine high-resolution structures of individual protein components. This work has downstream implications for the development of new antimicrobials aimed at preventing bacterial proliferation and resistance mechanisms.

Cryo-tomograms of bacteria with the type IV pilus machinery in the closed (left) and open (centre) state. 3D view of a bacterial cell pole shows pili extending from the cell surface (right)

Mitochondrial energy metabolism and disease

Mitochondria produce the energy required for cellular life. Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to ageing and neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s disease. Using the nematode worm C. elegans as a model system, we investigate the effects of ageing on mitochondrial proteins with respect to their structure and function. This will help us to understand more about energy metabolism and mitochondrial disease, informing strategies that can improve human health.

Cryo-tomograms of mitochondria showing ribosomes interacting with the outer membrane (left) and different crista morphology indicative of age-related disease (centre and right)

See the group website here