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Expression, purification and characterization of membrane proteins which are potential antifungal drug targets

Primary supervisor: Dr Alice Rothnie, Aston University

Non-academic partner: Dr Jason Oliver, F2G Ltd

Project Title: Expression, purification and characterization of membrane proteins which are potential antifungal drug targets

Project description:

An estimated 1.5 million people die from invasive fungal infections (IFI) each year. As well as the increasing patient population (currently exacerbated by the influence of COVID-associated IFIs), the problem of increasing resistance to current therapies is worrying. The spread of antifungal resistance has been identified by the WHO and CDC as a serious threat to health. With limited treatment options there is an urgent need for new antifungal drugs acting via novel mechanisms of action. F2G Ltd have several antifungal programmes at different stages that are each believed to target membrane proteins. The phase 3 antifungal compound olorofim acts by inhibiting the mitochondrial membrane protein dihydroorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH). Additionally, a multi-spanning membrane protein has been identified as the target of a preclinical series of antifungals, and a third potential membrane protein target has been found, that requires active protein to progress

Traditionally, membrane proteins have been difficult to work with so that preparation of recombinant versions of potential drug targets for inhibitor screening has not always been possible. However, this collaboration will combine Aston’s expertise in membrane protein expression, particularly in yeast, and the use of innovative solubilisation techniques such as SMA lipid particles (SMALPs) to enable these membrane proteins to be purified in their native form, allowing their activity to be studied. The proposed target proteins will be expressed and purified, followed by the development of methods to study the interaction between the transmembrane protein and potential drugs at the molecular level. Assay development of novel membrane protein targets will allow screening for inhibitors that will drive the identification of starting points for the discovery of new drugs.


Oliver JD, Sibley GEM, Beckmann N, Dobb KS, Slater MJ, McEntee L, du Pré S, Livermore J, Bromley MJ, Wiederhold NP, Hope WW, Kennedy AJ, Law D, Birch M.(2016) F901318 represents a novel class of antifungal drug that inhibits dihydroorotate dehydrogenase. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 113(45):12809-12814. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1608304113.

Unger L, Ronco-Campaña A, Kitchen P, Bill RM & Rothnie AJ (2021) Biological Insights from SMA-extracted proteins. Biochem. Soc. Trans 49(3):1349-1359 doi: 10.1042/BST20201067

Ayub H, Clare M, Milic I, Chmel NP, Böning H, Devitt A, Krey T, Bill RM & Rothnie AJ (2020) CD81 extracted in SMALP nanodiscs comprises two distinct protein populations within a lipid environment enriched with negatively charged headgroups. BBA Biomembranes 1862; 183419


Candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Alice Rothnie to discuss the project before applying if they wish to.

Contact: Dr Alice Rothnie, Aston University


Deadline: 20 January 2023

To apply for a CASE studentship, please check your eligibility and complete the MIBTP application process.

Please ensure that you;

  • Apply directly to Aston Univeristy
  • Clearly state you are applying for a CASE project and stipulate the proejct title.