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Structural Biology of Membrane Protein Channels

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Monday, August 05, 2019
  • Self-Funded PhD Students Only
    Self-Funded PhD Students Only

Project Description

Research in the Pliotas group focuses on the investigation of molecular mechanisms which underlie the structure and function of integral membrane proteins, in particular ion channels and transporters. These systems form pores in the cell membrane and allow the passage of solutes and molecules. Most genetically studied human diseases are due to malfunctions of these proteins, and the majority of drugs, target them.

A multi-disciplinary approach combining structural, e.g. Cryo Electron Microscopy (CryoEM), X-Ray crystallography and Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) spectroscopy, functional, e.g. Single Molecule Electrophysiology and computational e.g. MD simulations will be facilitated to investigate gating and regulation of novel ion channels.

We are seeking a highly motivated and talented individual interested in undertaking a very challenging and exciting PhD project in the laboratory of Dr Christos Pliotas. The project aims at obtaining and solving novel high-resolution 3-Dimensional CryoEM and X-ray structures of ion channels in distinct conformational states. Emerging structures will be interrogated by EPR spectroscopy for their validity within lipid/native environment and will be subsequently linked to function by using single molecule methodologies.

CryoEM facilities in the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology (, University of Leeds are world-leading, with a recent £17 million investment within the centre for advanced structural biological research equipment, including 2 x Titan KRIOS 300keV electron microscopes for CryoEM, a 950MHz NMR Bruker spectrometer and state-of-the-art instruments for native mass spectrometry. The facilities within the centre also include crystallization robots for multiple pipetting, both hanging drop and lipidic cubic phase (LCP). In-house x-ray facilities, and regular visits to both Diamond (Oxford) and ESRF (Grenoble) synchrotrons for on-site or remote data collection are regularly planned. The project will also involve regular trips to the St Andrews and Manchester EPR facilities, which are truly world-leading (Bruker EMX CW-X-Band, Bruker E580 pulse X-Band, Bruker E580 pulse X/Q-band and a home-built pulse W-band (HIPER/St Andrews).

Interested and eligible candidates should directly contact Dr Christos Pliotas () for informal enquiries.

The University of Leeds is among the Russell Group of research intensive Universities. The University is among the top ten rated Universities in the United Kingdom and among the top one hundred rated in the world.

Funding Notes

Candidates should hold a Bachelor's degree from a prestigious university and/or a Masters degree.
Experience in chemical and/or structural biology is desirable.
Candidates will be required to meet the English language requirements (see our website for details).
Please apply online and include a CV and transcripts: View Website


(1) Pliotas et al, Nature Structural and Molecular Biology. “The Role of Lipids in Mechanosensation” (advance online publication) (2015). doi:10.1038/nsmb.3120
(2) Pliotas, C., Methods in Enzymology. “Ion Channel Conformation and Oligomerization Assessment by Site-Directed Spin Labeling and Pulsed-EPR” 2017, 594, 203-242
(3) Pliotas & Naismith, Current Opinion in Structural Biology. "Spectator no more, the role of the membrane in regulating ion channel function". (2017). doi:10.1016/
(4) Pliotas et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. “Conformational State of the MscS Mechanosensitive Channel in Solution Revealed by Pulsed Electron – Electron Double Resonance ( PELDOR ) Spectroscopy” (2012). doi:10.1073/pnas.1202286109.

How good is research at University of Leeds in Biological Sciences?

FTE Category A staff submitted: 60.90

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

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