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Department of Biosciences

News and Events

Sensing the difference between the elements

(1 December 2017)

About a half of the reactions of life are catalysed by metals and a paper out today in Nature Communications​ from the Robinson lab at Durham University discovers how cells discern one metal from another. Metal sensing helps metalloproteins to bind the right metals. Implications and applications of understanding and manipulating protein metalation are supported by an Industry-Academia network led from the Universities of Durham and Kent in the UK (Metals in Biology BBSRC NIBB, award BB/L013711/1).

A blog on Nature Microbiology Community​ describes the latest paper.

New data and calculations show that for cells to discern between metals there must be fine control of the metal concentrations inside cells, and this control is susceptible to subversion. This is thought to be a microbial ‘Achilles heel’ explaining why metals, chelants and ionophores have so often been chosen, albeit empirically, as antimicrobials in agriculture, consumer goods and healthcare, plus indeed by evolution in so-called nutritional immunity. The work is a collaboration between Bioscientists and Chemists at Durham University along with Industry researchers at Procter and Gamble, funded by the Biotechnology and Biosciences Research Council (BBSRC Industrial Partnership award BB/J017787/1). 

Deenah Osman and Nigel Robinson, Departments of Biosciences and Chemistry, Durham University, UK

Contact: deenah.osman@durham.ac.uk