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Durham University

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Staff Profile

Professor Martin Cann

Head Of Department in the Department of Biosciences
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 33 43985
Fax: (+44) 191 334 1201

Contact Professor Martin Cann (email at

My laboratory is interested in a variety of signal transduction mechanisms mediated by nucleotides. We are based within the Department of Chemistry and work closely with physicists, chemists, and mathematicians on a number of research questions.

1. Carbon dioxide sensing. CO2 is a critical constituent of all known biological systems yet its molecular interactions with the cell are relatively unexplored. Cells are exposed to fluctuating CO2 through altered environmental conditions, changes in cell metabolism, and the effects of lifestyle and pathology. Our current work is directed toward understanding how CO2 impacts on cell function through alterations in cellular levels of the second messenger molecule, cAMP.

2. Resistance protein function. Plant resistance proteins trigger disease resistance in response to pathogen (avirulence) proteins. R-proteins typically consist of a nucleotide binding (NB) domain adjacent to one or more ARC domains and a Leucine Rich Repeat (LRR). The LRR is involved in pathogen sensing and is thought to transmit this signal, via the ARC domains, to the NB domain. The role of the NB domain is uncertain but is presumed to specify an ATPase. My laboratory is developing methodology for the expression of recombinant proteins corresponding to the key signalling domains of R-proteins and using these proteins to investigate the biochemistry of these key molecules of the plant immune system. This work is performed in collaboration with Dr Lars-Olof Palsson (Chemistry, BSI) and Dr Gary Sharples (SBBS, BSI) and is supported by the BBSRC.

3. Protein dynamics. We are interested in how protein thermal motion can contribute to function. In particular, we are investigating dynamics contributes to allostery in the Catabolite Activated Protein (CAP) of Escherichia coli. We using a combination of coarse grained modelling, atomic simulations, biochemistry, and structural biology to achieve these aims. This work is performed in collaboration with Prof Tom McLeish (Physics, BSI), Prof Mark Wilson (Chemistry, BSI), and Dr Ehmke Pohl (SBBS/Chemistry, BSI).


Research Groups

Department of Biosciences

Research Interests

  • Bicarbonate
  • Biochemistry
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Cell biology
  • Hypercapnia
  • Hypocapnia
  • Inorganic carbon
  • Molecular biology
  • Signal transduction

Teaching Areas

  • Level 1 Molecular Basis of Life (6 hours/year.)
  • Level 2 Animal Physiology (13 hours/year.)
  • Level 2 Clinical and Metabolic Biochemistry (23 hours/year.)
  • Level 3 Stress and Responses to the Environment (10 hours/year.)


Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article


Indicators of Esteem

  • 2015: RCUK Committee Membership: Core Member Panel D
  • 2003: Fellowship: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellow 2003-2005

Selected Grants

  • 2017: Physics of Life Network 2 (PoLNet2) (£199689.91 from Epsrc)