Crystal structure of the Trim5α HIV-1 restriction factor.

Ian Taylor : Macromolecular Structure Laboratory

We are investigating the three-dimensional structures of the molecular ‘machines’ inside cells so that we can figure out how they work.

Many of the fundamental processes of life inside cells are carried out by ‘molecular machines’ – groups of protein molecules working together to carry out a particular task. If one or more components of the machine is faulty or if the whole machine stops working properly then this can lead to problems such as cancer, brain disorders or birth defects.

We are studying the three-dimensional structures of various molecular machines involved a range of cellular functions, and devising experiments to test how they work. We are particularly interested in the machines that are hijacked by viruses when they infect cells and multiply inside them. Our findings are giving us important insights into how these machines perform their essential tasks and how they interact and co-operate with other molecules and machines inside cells.

If we can find out how the molecular machinery works in a healthy cell, then we can gain insight into what goes wrong during disease. In turn, our discoveries could point towards new ideas for anti-viral therapies as well as treatments for devastating illnesses and genetic disorders.