Professor Jennifer R Potts

Chair of Molecular Biophysics

Overview

Key research interests

In the early stages of infection, bacteria attach to host tissue. Interactions between host and bacterial proteins are also likely to play an important role in the maintenance and dissemination of infection. One aim of our research is to elucidate mechanisms of host-pathogen interactions. For example, the ability to bind the human protein fibronectin (Fn) is a characteristic that has been demonstrated for a number of pathogens. For Staphylococcus aureus, Fn-binding appears to play a role in infective endocarditis. S. aureus can also form difficult to eradicate aggregates, known as biofilms, on the surfaces of prosthetic devices such as mechanical heart valves. We are studying proteins involved in biofilm formation using techniques such as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, isothermal titration calorimetry, surface plasmon resonance and multi-angle light scattering.

Projects

  • Structure and folding of proteins with identical tandemly arrayed domains. (BBSRC)
  • Investigating protein-mediated staphylococcal biofilm formation (MRC).
  • Structure, function and inhibition of proteins involved in biofilm formation on cardiac devices. (BHF)
  • Molecular mechanism of environmental stress sensing by bacterial zinc-containing anti-sigma factors. (BBSRC)

Research Group

NameStatusProject
Mrs Judith Hawkhead Senior Research Technician Molecular basis of bacterial biofilm formation.

Mr Michael Hodgkinson 

Research Technician Molecular basis of bacterial biofilm formation.

Dr Fiona Whelan

Postdoctoral Research Associate Structure and function of bacterial proteins involved on PNAG synthesis

Ms Lotte Van Beek

PhD Student Structure and function of a bacterial surface protein involved in biofilm formation

Sarah Tindall

Masters by Research student Bacterial carbohydrate-modifying enzymes

Teaching and Scholarship

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‌As a teacher I try to use my experience in, and enthusiasm for, molecular science to help students learn the fundamentals of a subject and also to become skilled at extending their knowledge through independent research.
 

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‌As a structural biologist, my lecture material includes the interesting fundamentals of protein structure, how structure relates to function and the methods that can be used to determine the structure of proteins at high resolution. My teaching is inspired by my research, which uses biophysical methods to study proteins involved in bacterial infection. These proteins include those that enable Gram positive bacteria to adhere to human tissues and bacterial proteins and other polymers that enable the development of infections (biofilms) on the surfaces of medical devices.

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‌Subjects could include molecular biology, structural biology and biophysical techniques for studying protein structure and function.  Tutorials are an excellent opportunity for students to ask questions and discuss a subject in more detail. Student preparation for tutorials can include reading, essay writing or the preparation of a more formal short presentation. 

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‌Students taking a project in my lab will be working on a project related to our ongoing research. I offer both primarily lab based and computer based projects. Lab work often includes protein expression, purification and biophysical characterization of a bacterial protein domain. Computer based work could include assignment of heteronuclear nuclear magnetic resonance spectra of a protein domain. Students have many informal and formal opportunities to discuss their project with either their day-to-day supervisor in the lab or the project supervisor. The final year project is an excellent opportunity to experience what it is like to work in a research lab. 

Publications


PURE Staff link York Research Database

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Contact details

Prof. Jennifer R Potts
Department of Biology (Area 10)
University of York
Heslington
York
YO10 5DD

Tel: 01904 328679