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NEW: Warwick Pocket Workshop on Molecular Recognition

September 10-11th 2015 at Arden House, University of Warwick.

Group members:
Professor Richard Napier; (Group Leader

Dr Veselina Uzunova; BBSRC post-doctoral researcher. Thermodynamics and the mechanism of auxin binding.

Dr Justyna Prusinska; Post-doctoral researcher

Mussa Quareshy; BBSRC and MIBTP-funded research student. Project; Drug discovery for novel auxins

Victor Quan; MOAC-supported PhD student jointly supervised with Prof Rachel O'Reilly and Dr Vas Stavros in Chemistry. Project; Self-assembling, porphyrin-containing polymers

Alex Fullwood; PhD student jointly supervised with Dr Christophe Corre. Project; Binding of natural metabolites to bacterial transcriptional repressors as tools for synthetic biology.

Recent past members:

Dr Ashutosh Tripathi (structure and activity of AUX1): Commonwealth Academic Fellow. From Allahabad, India

Dr Ailidh Woodcock (SUMOylation of DELLAs): PhD student with Dr Ari Sadanandom (University of Durham), currently working at BBSRC.

Dr Sarah Lee (auxin-binding to TIR1); currently at the University of Birmingham

Dr Shanthy Sundaram (structure and activity of TIR1); Commonwealth Research Fellowship. Currently Professor & Coordinator, Centre for Biotechnology, Nehru Science Complex, University of Allahabad, India.

Marta Kowalska (cytokinin biosensor); from the lab of Prof Ivo Frebort, Olomouc University, Czech Republic

Laboratories and Facilities.
We share the Life Sciences structural biology laboratory C10, which includes the Warwick Macromolecular Crystallisation Facility. We produce proteins and protein complexes using baculovirus expression in our Tissue Culture facilities, use various affinity purification protocols and run Surface Plasmon Resonance (Biacore) as our most frequent biophysical assay for protein activity.

Hormone recognition, binding and selectivity.
The auxin receptor TIR1 and the related AFBs are expressed from insect cells and binding is explored in terms of kinetics (surface plasmon resonance, Biacore), thermodynamics (isothermal titration calorimetry, ITC) and structure. This project is joint with Dr Stefan Kepinski (University of Leeds, UK) and Syngenta UK. It is known that auxin completes a nascent substrate binding pocket as it binds to TIR1. The substrates are the Aux/IAA transcriptional regulators which, on binding, become ubiquitinated through the ubiquitin E3 ligase activity of TIR1. We are exploring how selectivity is conferred for different auxins and different Aux/IAAs, and how these two variables affect each other.

We work with Dr Noel Ferro Diaz (Institute for Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, University of Bonn) on the chemical definition of auxins and receptor selectivity profiles. Dr Ferro is involved with translation of the TIR1 thermodynamic data.

Biosensors, like receptor proteins, need to recognise analytes with appropriate sensitivity and selectivity. The group is developing hormone sensor domains in order to generate experimental plant hormone biosensors. We are working with Prof Nick Dale (University of Warwick), a neurobiologist and specialist in the development of purine biosensors, to develop a microelectrode-based biosensor for cytokinins. This work is in collaboration with Prof Ivo Frebort (University of Olomouc). We have also developed SPR as a generic immunosensor platform for real-time phytohormone sensing, testing it for both ABA and auxin.

SUMO signalling.
Like ubiquitin, SUMO contributes to post-translational processing of signalling proteins in plants. In a project led by Dr Ari Sadanandom (University of Durham) we helped show that SUMO-interaction motifs (SIMs) are important for DELLA signalling during stress.