Nucleation and growth of membrane protein crystals in detergent, detergent/lipid and lipid phases

The Early Stage Researcher (ESR)/PhD, is funded by The Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Networks (ITN) programme “Rationalising Membrane Protein Crystallisation” (RAMP) and working Dr Jennifer McManus in the Soft Matter and Biophysical Chemistry group in the Department of Chemistry at Maynooth University (Maynooth Campus). 

Understanding nucleation and growth of membrane protein crystals in detergent and lipid systems is key to optimising X-ray
crystallography measurements. Using data on protein phase diagrams determined in WP1, ESR6 will examine the early stages
of crystal nucleation and growth near the protein solubility line to establish the relationship between protein solubility (within a
specific detergent or in-meso system) and formation and growth of protein crystals. Early experiments will establish robust
protocols for capturing early crystal growth (using a combination of optical microscopy and SAXS/WAXS (at UHH)). Using
some model membrane proteins (e.g. OmpG, OmpX), and phase diagrams determined at Maynooth (ESR9), nucleation and
growth rates in different detergent/lipid systems will be determined. Working with U. Surrey, we will model these nucleation
and growth events to rationalise them in relation to the protein phase diagram and specific detergent/lipid systems.
Expected results:
We expect to identify different nucleation and growth rates for different detergent and/or lipid systems. This information will be
valuable in designing new membrane protein crystallization screens (link to secondment at MDL), in controlling crystal growth
rates and in linking phase diagram measurements with crystal quality outcomes.

The ESR project is one of 12 in the RAMP training network. It will involve secondments to other network partners with specialised biochemical, biophysical, crystallisation and crystallography expertise.

Applicants should have a high-level honours (2.1 or above) Bachelor’s and/or a Master’s degree or its equivalent in Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, or a related discipline and a keen interest in the relationship between structure and function. Experience with protein crystallisation, membrane proteins and/or synthetic organic chemistry is desirable but not essential.

Candidates must comply with EU eligibility criteria. Accordingly, you are eligible for an ESR position at Maynooth University if you have not studied or worked in Ireland for more than 12 of the last 36 months

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