Mrs Liz Martin, Biology, Sheffield
Photosynthetic organisms utilise membrane embedded pigment-protein complexes to capture the energy of sunlight and convert it to chemical energy in the form of ATP. A number of these complexes have recently been isolated in anoxygenic purple bacteria such as Rhodobacter sphaeroides and their structure investigated using cryogenic electron microscopy. However, supercomplexes of these components are yet to be purified and studied biochemically and structurally, which is likely because the detergents typically used to solubilise membranes disrupt the fragile interactions that hold them together. In this project, we will screen a range of ‘milder’ detergents at different concentrations in order to more gently solubilise the membrane and maintain intact supercomplexes for spectroscopic, biochemical and preliminary structural analysis. The student will gain experience in a range of microbiological (cell growth and media preparation), biochemical (sucrose gradients/rate-zonal ultracentrifugation and membrane protein purification), spectroscopic (UV-Vis and fluorescence) and structural (negative-stain EM) techniques. They will be supervised within the Photosynthesis Research Group. Students will be expected to present their findings orally at a research day in York in September 2024.