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Bioinformatics studies of protein structures, functions and their interactions

School of Biological Sciences

About the Project

The computational study of protein structures, functions and their interactions is fundamental to our understanding of disease. To deliver on the promise of next generation sequencing for health care and personalised medicine, we must understand the information implicit in the genome, specifically, the functions of the proteins that are encoded by the genes. Individual protein chains fold into specific three dimensional structures and bind with one another to form complexes that perform essential functions. The 3D fold of a protein is therefore key to the cell functioning correctly and protein misfolding is a direct cause of disease - Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and CJD being well known, if extreme, examples.

Determining the 3D fold of a protein is not always straight forward. In cases where the structure of a protein has been determined experimentally, the fold can then be directly visualised. However, solving structures experimentally is time consuming and expensive and so the vast majority of proteins with known sequences have unknown structures. Fortunately, in the majority of cases we can use predictive tools that allow us to rapidly and accurately model the shapes of proteins in silico, which helps us to determine their likely functions and interactions.

This project will aim to develop improved computational methods for rapidly and confidently predicting the structures, functions and interactions of proteins using only amino acid sequence information. Once a catalogue of accurately predicted structures for the majority of proteins within a cell is available, the aim is to predict their ability to interact with small molecules and each other, to form the complex cellular machinery upon which life depends. This vital information will allow us to produce novel or more efficient products for use in medicine and will help us to better understand the mechanisms of the leading causes of death, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Funding Notes

Eligibility Details: Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK Honours Degree at 2:1 level or equivalent or a Masters degree in a relevant subject, such as Biological Sciences, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Sciences, Genetics or Bioinformatics.

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