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Structure and function of a novel Sec component

Principal Supervisor: Dr Damon Huber, School of Biosciences

Co-supervisor: Dr Tim Knowles, School of Biosciences

PhD project title: Structure and function of a novel Sec component

University of Registration: University of Birmingham

Project outline:

Our labs have recently discovered a novel accessory component of the Sec machinery in Escherichia coli. The Sec machinery is responsible for the transport of proteins across the cytoplasmic membrane in most organisms. In bacteria, the core Sec machinery is evolutionarily conserved and consists of the proteins SecA, SecY, SecE, SecG, SecD, SecF, YidC and YajC. However, some bacteria also contain accessory components that assist in the translocation of a subset of Sec substrate proteins. For example, SecB assists in the translocation of soluble periplasmic proteins in many Gram-negative bacteria, and SecA2 is required for the translocation of a subset of proteins in many Gram-positive pathogens. We have discovered a novel component of the Sec machinery in E. coli, YecA, which interacts with the Sec machinery and with Sec substrate proteins. However, the exact role of this protein in Sec-dependent protein transport is unknown. Initial studies suggest that YecA is a molecular chaperone, which assists in protein translocation by binding to newly synthesised substrate proteins. The goal of this project will be to determine the function of YecA and the molecular mechanism by which it carries out this function. To this end, the student will use a combination of modern bacterial genetics techniques (Huber), biochemical approaches (Huber/Knowles) and solution structural biology (Knowles).

BBSRC Strategic Research Priority: Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy

Techniques that will be undertaken during the project:

  • Protein purification
  • Strain construction (transformation, transduction, etc)
  • Molecular biology (restriction analysis, PCR, ligation, etc)
  • NMR
  • Illumina sequencing
  • Mass spectrometry.
Contact: Dr Damon Huber, School of Biosciences