Howard Prize Lecture

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Justin was awarded the Howard Prize Lecture by the University of Durham's Biophysical Sciences Institute. The international award is named in honour of Professor Judith Howard CBE FRS, who was a post-graduate student in Oxford with Dorothy Hodgkin. Previous winners include David Nelson (Harvard), Sarah Veatch (Michigan) and Arwen Pearson (Hamburg).

Ion mobility school in Cabourg

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Matteo was an invited lecturer at the ion mobility Ecole Thématique" in Cabourg, France, organized by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). He gave a lecture about computational methods for the calculation of collision cross-sections…. and enjoyed excellent seafood from Normandie.

Ulrik visits Oxford (Cop2Ox)

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We were delighted to have Ulrik Mistarz (Rand Group, Copenhagen) join the group for a month to probe protein complexes using our gas-phase HDX system. Ulrik had a successful COST Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) with plenty of chance to discuss ideas, try exploratory experiments on the activation of protein assemblies, and share the knowledge of both groups. We enjoyed having you Ulrik!

Shane the great northern runner

14 months after open-heart surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, Shane completed the Great North Run half marathon, in under 2.5 hours. Shane raised £1600 for the British Heart Foundation, a charity that funds research (including some of ours) into cardiovascular disease. We are all very proud of his achievement, testament to his hard work and perseverance since last summer.
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Biophysics summer school

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Reid, Miranda, and Olya journeyed to Croatia in September for the 13th Greta Plfat Mrzljak International School of Biophysics with support from the COST Action on Native MS They participated in hands-on workshops, attended lectures on the principles and application of various techniques used to tackle diverse biomacromolecular assemblies, and met other biophysicists from around the globe – while sailing the Adriatic, from Split to Šibenik, Sali, Zadar, and Stari Grad.

Congratulations Dr Heidi!

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Heidi successfully defended her Phd today. Her thesis concerned the structure and function of HSP27, and various disease variants thereof. Her examiners were Christine Slingsby, the godmother of small heath-shock protein structure and Professor Emeritus at Birkbeck College London, and Emily Flashman from our department, who is an expert in chemical biology and structural methods. Heidi first joined the group in 2009, when we were in Cambridge as an undergraduate student, before returning for a PhD in 2012. We will miss Heidi, and wish her all the best at UCB!

Modelling large protein assemblies

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Matteo was an invited speaker at the 28th meeting of PhD students in biochemical sciences taking place in Brallo di Pregola, Italy. He presented his work aimed at modelling large protein assemblies using molecular dynamics simulations and optimization techniques.

ASMS in Texas

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Shane attended the 2016 American Society for Mass Spectrometry conference in San Antonio, Texas, earlier this summer. The biggest mass spectrometry conference of the year, it is an excellent means to learn about the wide variety of applications that are enabled by the technique, as well as the instrumental developments that are being pursued. He presented a poster on his work on gas-phase HDX as a means of probing gas-phase conformations. This provided a great opportunity to discuss his work with the wider international community.

Ox2Cop research visit to Copenhagen

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Shane visited the group of Kasper Rand, University of Copenhagen, for two weeks to further his work on the application of gas-phase HDX to native protein systems. This was a project enabled by a Short Term Scientific Mission (STSM) award from the COST Action on native mass spectrometry. Shane enjoyed his productive time developing the technique with the group, having and the opportunity to exchange ideas with them, and sample the delights of Copenhagen!

IBBI 2016

Justin organised and chaired the 9th IBBI conference. With 120 delegates from all over the world, the conference was a successful coming together of spectrometrists, spectroscopists, and theoreticians. The next meeting will be in 2018, in The Netherlands. At the conference, Matteo presented his work on the modelling of heat shock proteins guided by ion mobility, electron microscopy and chemical cross-linking data.
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COST meeting on computational methods

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On the 10th of April, we hosted a working group meeting of the COST on Native MS at University College, Oxford. The meeting focussed on computational methods: 23 delegates, including 5 speakers from outside the EU, engaged in a detailed discussion on how to advance the field, develop principles of best-practice, and establish standards for the use of Native MS.

Biophysical Society Annual Meeting in LA

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Miranda presented her work at the 60th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society in Los Angeles, California. She spoke in a platform session on Protein Stability, Folding, and Chaperones about tackling dynamic, heterogeneous protein assemblies using native mass spectrometry, and its application in the study of a mechanism underlying cardiomyopathy.

At the same meeting, Justin organised the Molecular Biophysics symposium, on a theme of "New methods for studying the structural dynamics of macromolecules", with invited speakers Dorothee Kern, Bryony Yorke, Philipp Kukura, Matteo dal Peraro, Juergen Plitzko, Tuomas Knowles and Charlotte Uetrecht. Over 500 delegates came to the symposium, the largest attendance at the entire conference!

Merry Xmas!

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Software for calculating CCSs from EM maps

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We released EMIM, Matteo's software designed to relate collision cross-section measurements and density maps obtained by electron microscopy. The software is free for academic of use, and together with others as well as various utilities, can be downloaded from our resources page. And the paper is available here. Let us know what you think!

Group retreat in glorious Devon

This year we went to Devon for our annual retreat, staying at Great Horner Farm, near Totnes. A combination of talking about science, discussing future research and career plans, and long walks in the countryside, and evenings of mini golf…
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Congratulations to Dr Georg!

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Georg successfully defended his DPhil today, making him the first pillar-to-post student to pass through our doors. Thank you to his examiners were Tuomas Knowles (Chemistry, Cambridge), and Jason Schnell (Biochemistry, Oxford). Georg is still with us for a couple of months, before he moves to Chicago for a post-doc with Joe Thornton, working on protein evolution.

Dale leaves for pastures new

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We are all sad to say goodbye to Dale, who is leaving us after two years’ postdoc-ing. He is moving to take up a new post at the LGC, where he will be bringing his expertise in mass spectrometry based structural investigations. The leaving party at the St Aldate’s Tavern was a fitting send off!

Merry Christmas!

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Merry Christmas from us all (courtesy of Matteo’s coarse-grained modelling toolbox)! We celebrated at the St Aldate’s Tavern, before the group scattered to all corners of the globe for a well deserved break (other than those who had lost their passports, of course).

It was also an opportunity for us to thank and say good bye to Heath Ecroyd, who visited us for 6 weeks at the end of autumn, and sadly returns to Wollongong.

New mass spectrometry platform

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We took delivery of our Waters Synapt G2-S hydogen/deuterium exchange mass spectrometry set-up today. We will be using the instrument to investigate the motions that proteins undergo, and how the fluctuations of protein structure on the tertiary level predicate assembly and disassembly.

Unfortunately the location of the lab meant it had to be craned in through a third-floor window!

Busy month for group presentations

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A number of people from the group were giving talks this month: Olya and Heidi were presenting at the Molecular Chaperone Club in Amsterdam, and Matteo (it’s not rocket science!) at the Symposium for Structural Proteomics in Antwerp.

And also special mention for Erik, whose poster on “Collisional Cross-Sections for Structural Proteomics” earned him the poster prize at the same conference.

Celebrating our growing group

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This year we have welcomed eight new group members: Miranda, Reid and Shane are all starting PhDs; Jordan is here for a two-year Master’s; Anna, John and Nick are doing their Part II projects; and Yusuf is a visiting student.

So, plenty of reasons for a group evening out at The Cape of Good Hope and Oxford’s Grill!

Group retreat in Shropshire

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For our first ever group retreat we headed to the beautiful Shropshire countryside for three days, staying at Mindy Mundy Farm on the Pitchford estate. Mornings were spent discussing science, brainstorming new ideas, thinking about what the important questions that should be answered in our field are, and considering what our priorities for the next year are. The second afternoon we went hiking up Long Mynd, in the Shropshire Hills “area of national beauty”. Half the group cooked the first night, and the other half the second, but both evenings ended with everyone crowded around the bonfire outside. The question is only, where do we go next year?

Structure and dynamics of αB-crystallin

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Georg and Art’s paper on the ability of the core domain of αB-crystallin to prevent amyloid aggregation and toxicity has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. This work was a collaboration with David Eisenberg’s group in UCLA and Heath Ecroyd’s in Wollongong, and colleagues in Oxford.

Georg has also written a review on the dynamical underpinnings of αB-crystallin, published in a special issue of Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology on the eye lens crystallins that was edited by Christine Slingsby and Graeme Wistow.

iCASE studentship with Waters available

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A 4-year BBSRC-sponsored Industrial CASE studentship is available for someone to join our group in October 2014, on a joint project with the mass spectrometry wing of Waters, in Manchester. The project is focussed on integrating novel mass spectrometry approaches for studying protein dynamics, and will also involve collaboration with the Baldwin Lab for validation by means of NMR spectroscopy. More details about the project, including how to apply, are available here, but also feel free to contact us informally for more information.

Prize for Heidi

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Heidi won a prize for a poster on her research while presenting at the practical course on High Throughput Recombinant Protein Complex Production, hosted by the AFMB in Marseilles. The course covered expression and purification strategies to isolate protein complexes, as well as a range of biophysical techniques to characterise complexes which complement the work we do in Oxford. Heidi received the newly published Structural Genomics edition of Methods in Molecular Biology, which will make for excellent Christmas reading!

24th Meeting of the Molecular Chaperone Club

The next meeting of the UK Molecular Chaperone Club, which will be held in Oxford on Monday 16th December. This one-day meeting will bring together researchers to discuss recent published and unpublished results in this area. The meeting program will consist of oral presentations only, and will include a plenary lecture given by Prof Amnon Horovitz (Weizmann Institute). As is the long-standing tradition of the Molecular Chaperone Cub, we strongly encourage early career researchers, and in particular graduate students and post-docs and early career scientists to submit abstracts.

Registration is open, abstracts should be created using the template available from here, and sent to molchapclub@gmail.com by the 22nd November.

Native mass spectrometry primer slides

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The slides from Justin’s tutorial lecture on native mass spectrometry for structural and dynamical proteomics are available for download here. These were given as part of the Proteins@Work course in Turku, Finland.

Calibration of native IM-MS data

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The slides from Justin’s talk at the French school for Ion Mobility and Mass Spectrometry are available for download here. The section on calibration refers directly to Kevin Pagel’s (Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, Berlin) excellent talk and calibration spreadsheet that can be accessed from his website. A zip file of all the talks can be found here.

Alfred Tissières Award

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Justin has been awarded the Alfred Tissières Award of Cell Stress Society International. This award is presented every two years to a young investigator in the field of cellular stress and heat shock, and is named after one of its pioneers. Part of the award is a copy of George Band’s book “The Road to Rakopashi”, describing the expedition of the Cambridge Mountaineering Club that Alfred led in 1954 to climb this fabled peak. [Painting: "Tibet. Monastery in the mountains (Rakopashi)", 1940, Nicholas Roerich]

Matteo's PhD research on the radio

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Matteo's structural study on the pore-forming toxin Aerolysin, a major part of his PhD in the group of Matteo Dal Peraro at EPFL, was recently published in Nature Chemical Biology. By combining experimental and computational approaches, his results provide near-atomic detail on the mechanisms of  assembly and insertion into the host cell membrane. Matteo was interviewed about this work, and research in general, by the Swiss radio RSR: two clips (in french) are here, and here (min 6:20).

Resource available - MS for structural biophysics

The slides from Justin’s mass spectrometry tutorial lecture at the EBSA Satellite Meeting in Bionanotechnology are available for download, together with some background references. The material is an introduction to the MS approaches used in biophysics, together with a few examples from our group and others.

ASMS talk and poster

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Justin and Weston will both be attending the ASMS Annual Conference in Minneapolis. Come find Weston at his poster “The effects of protein glycation on structural dynamics of αB-crystallin” (TP641 on Thursday) and listen to Justin talking on “Exploiting IM-MS separation to overcome heterogeneity in protein self-assembly” (TOG 10:10am on Tuesday). More details are in the programme.

Webinar online

The recording of the Discovery & Life Science Webinar Series webinar from Justin on protein structure determination using mass spectrometry is now available online, together with that by Kasper Rand from the University of Copenhagen.

Webinar on protein structure determination

On the 17th April, Justin will be giving the opening seminar of the Discovery & Life Science Webinar Series, speaking on using mass spectrometry for rapid protein structure determination. Kasper Rand from the University of Copenhagen is the other speaker in the same session. Registration is available here.

BMSS Ion Mobility meeting

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The 1st BMSS ion mobility special interest group meeting is to be held next on the 16th April, at UCB. More information to be found here. Erik will be speaking about his work on collision cross section calculations.

Phil Trans B issue on sHSPs

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A special issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, “Assembly chaperones in health and disease”, edited by Roy Quinlan and John Ellis has been published. Amongst the various articles is one from the group, concerning the influence of the C-terminus on the thermodynamics and kinetics of αB-crystallin.

Dale and Matteo join the group

Dale Shepherd and Matteo Degiacomi have joined our group in the last couple of weeks. Dale join us from Alison Ashcroft’s and Nicola Stonehouse’s groups in Leeds, and Matteo from the del Perraro group at EPFL in Lausanne.

New group member: Erik

Erik Marklund has joined the group from his PhD and post-doc in Uppsala. Erik is an expert in molecular dynamics approaches, and will be a great asset in our exploitation of MS-derived information for determining structure.

Group dinner

It’s hard to not love the Madgalen Arms, and at a time of year when calorific meals come hard and fast this group dinner is unlikely to be surpassed. Thank you to Guy from Waters for hosting the evening!

Weston joins the group

Weston Struwe has today joined the group as a post-doc. Having spent the last few years at NIBRT in Dublin, after his PhD in New Hampshire, he is a mass spec expert, and will be working on the self-assembly of sHSPs

Post-doctoral vacancy

We currently have a post-doctoral post available. The position is funded by the BBSRC to further develop and integrate algorithms to aid the translation of mass spectrometry data into spatial restraints. Though primarily computational, the postdoc will get the chance to be directly involved in the experiments that go on in the lab.

Heidi returns and Fran joins

Heidi Gastall has come back to the group for her “PhD proper”, having done the second of two rotations in the structural genomics consortium. She is joined by the first of our new post-docs, Fran Kondrat, who comes fresh from a PhD in mass spectrometry at the University of Warwick

Gill leaves us to join Akzonobel

We are all sad that after 2 1/2 years with us Gill has moved on to a career in industry, starting a role in AkzoNobel in the Netherlands. Obviously we wish her all the best, but will miss her both in and out of the lab!

Kate joins the group

Kate Tonks joined us on her part II project. Kate is a student at Teddy Hall, and will be working with Georg on the dynamics of plant sHSPs

Chemistry & Biology paper highlighted

Our paper on the deconvoluting the polydispersity of the complexes formed between sHSPs and target proteins has been highlighted by a feature article by Christine Slingsby and Alice Clark, long-time collaborators of ours from Birkbeck College.

ASMS talk

Gill HIlton will be giving a talk doing the ion mobility session of this year’s ASMS in Vancouver

Post-doctoral vacancies

We have EPSRC and BBSRC post-doctoral positions available, please see the link to the first vacancy here, and feel free to contact us informally if you would like more information.

New group member

Heidi Gastall, who previously did her part III project during her degree in Natural Sciences in Cambridge with us, has retuned to our group. She will be with us for 10 weeks, on the for the first of her rotations in the Systems Biology DTC DPhil programme

C&E News Feature

C&E News published a cover article this week about the emerging role of mass spectrometry for structural biology. This featured our recent paper in Structure, describing the interconversion of aB-crystallin oligomers and their likely structures.

Textbook material

Florian’s PNAS paper on the quaternary dynamics and heterogeneity of the sHSPs has been featured in the new edition of the text book Biochemistry by Garrett and Grisham to illustrate the role of these chaperones in protein homeostasis.