Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC)

Project Number: 2019-69

Project Leader: Renwick Dobson

Host Department: BIC

Project Title: Propionate Use in Meningococcal bacteria

Project outline: There are between 26 and 70 meningococcal disease cases each year in New Zealand with a mortality rate exceeding 10%. Alarmingly, the bacteria that cause meningococcal disease are not rare and studies estimate that 25% of the population are harmlessly colonised at any one time. Currently, mechanisms of successful colonisation are not fully understood, but recent work demonstrate that a genomic island containing a novel cluster for propionate uptake and metabolism is critical for meningococcal bacterial inhabitation. Investigation of the structural and function of the proteins from the novel cluster will increase our scientific understanding of the mechanisms of colonisation and for construction of targeted antibiotics that may help during serious infections. This summer scholarship will undertake the characterisation of propionate kinase. This will include work to determine the structure by X-ray crystallography, small-angle X-ray scattering and analytical ultracentrifugation and different scanning fluorimetry and kinetic studies to investigate compounds that allosterically activate the enzyme. There could also be opportunity to travel to the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne to collect X-ray diffraction data on these enzymes to help elucidate the structural properties of these proteins.

Specific Requirements: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, A sense of humor

 

Project Number: 2019-71

Project Leader: Renwick Dobson

Host Department: BIC

Project Title: Viral proteins as novel antimicrobials

Project outline: The development of alternative antibiotics has been of great interest in recent years to preserve the effectiveness of currently available antibiotics. Gram-negative bacteria, in particular, are notoriously difficult to treat, because they have a protective outer-membrane that acts as a physical barrier against proposed drugs.

During this project you will help develop bacteriophage (viruses that infect bacteria) proteins, endolysins, into the next antimicrobial agent against Gram-negative bacteria. There could also be opportunity to travel to the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne to collect X-ray diffraction data on endolysin crystals to help elucidate the structural properties of these proteins.

Specific Requirements: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, A sense of humor