Structure determination of plant borate transporters (ESR7)

Applications are invited for an Early Stage Researcher (ESR)/PhD studentship position funded by The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) programme Rationalising Membrane Protein Crystallisation (RAMP) and based in the Molecular Membrane Group at Imperial College London‘s  Department of Life Sciences.

This is biochemistry/structural biology project which focuses on utilising apply rational crystallisation in order to obtain solve structures of medically and agriculturally important membrane transporters. The PhD project is one of 12 in this training network. Other PhD students in the network will work with other membrane proteins, develop advanced methods for crystallisation and modelling of the membrane protein crystallisation process.

Integral membrane proteins have essential cellular functions, however our understanding of their mechanism of action is limited due to difficulties in determination of high-resolution structures. Obtaining well diffracting crystals remains a one of the major hurdles in the structure determination process. This project will involve expression, isolation and characterisation of a range of transporter proteins with particular focus on the plant borate transporters building on existing expertise in the group with a these and other membrane proteins. As a secondary project, another rmembrane protein, UapA, maybe included (Alguel et al, Nat Comms. 2016). In this case we will aim to crystallise this protein in complex with a range of different native and non-native substrates. The high quality protein produced will be submitted to crystallisation trials using a range of approaches including ones available in-house and others available in the laboratories of network partners. Optimised crystals will be screened at national and international synchrotrons. The project will involve secondments in the laboratory of Prof Martin Caffrey, Trinity College Dublin, an expert in the application of lipidic cubic phase crystallisation to membrane proteins and Dr Tony Saville, Molecular Dimensions, Oxford a specialist in the development of cutting edge crystallisation screens and tools.

Applicants should have a BSc in Biochemistry/Chemistry or related discipline and an associated Masters or an equivalent level of professional qualifications or experience. Knowledge and experience of membrane proteins is desirable but not essential.

Candidates must comply with both EU and Imperial College eligibility criteria. Due to the EU rules to promote mobility, you are not eligible for a position in a country where you have lived (worked, studied) for more than 12 months in the last 3 years. So for this position you are eligible, unless you have studied or worked in the UK for more than 12 of the last 36 months. For applicants finishing or who have just finished their degree, this typically means that you can be graduating from any university except a UK university.

Further details on this project are available from Dr. Bernadette Byrne (


Author: Richard Sear

Computational physicist at the University of Surrey. My research interests are in crystallisation, soft matter & biological physics