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The focus of our research is the evolution of protein function and structure. We’re interested in how evolutionary analyses can be combined with experimental research to reconstruct functional evolution of proteins, and to generate testable hypotheses about unknown aspects of protein function.
Ongoing projects in the group:
- Functional diversity of small alarmone (ppGpp) synthetases in bacteria and bacteriophages
- Prediction and verification of novel toxin-antitoxin systems and phage defence systems
- Development of bioinformatics tools for comparative evolutionary sequence analysis (see our tools page here https://server.atkinson-lab.com/)
- High throughput structural and functional prediction of proteins and protein complexes
- Evolution and function of ABCF translation and antibiotic resistance factors in eukaryotes and bacteria
Toxin-antitoxin genes are enigmatic components of microbial genomes. What toxins of TA systems all have in common is that they slam the brakes on growth and reproduction. This is counteracted by their antitoxins which are encoded by adjacent genes. Antitoxins can also work in different ways, either binding to the toxin to stop its action, or counteracting the effect of the toxin in an indirect way. We are exploring the vast zoo of weird and wonderful TA systems in bacterial and bacteriophage genomes, understanding how they work and investigating the biotechnological opportunities they may offer.
I have a long-term interest in GTPase translation factors and how they have evolved in different branches of the tree of life. These core components of translation are at the heart of life itself and were present in the last common ancestor of all life on Earth.