In our lab we work on proteins. At just a few nanometres in diameter, proteins are nature’s nanotechnology! Proteins are remarkable natural ‘nanomachines’ that can do a number of useful things. Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in living cells, while other proteins can sense chemicals. We try to understand how proteins work at an atomic level, so that we can re-engineer them for a variety of applications.
The pesticide-degrading enzyme OpdA. The three dimensional structure is shown as a ‘cartoon’ (low detail), except for the active site where the reaction occurs, for which atomic-level detail is shown.
We collaborate with the CSIRO C3 facility in Melbourne and the Jackson Group at the Australian National University to determine the three dimensional structure of these tiny machines. Once we have determined their structures, we use advanced molecular modeling to predict how the proteins work. We then test those predictions using genetic and biochemical approaches. Then we use rational design and laboratory evolution to improve our proteins for use in environmental and industrial applications.