I am a scientist at the EMBL Grenoble Outstation and a visiting Scientist in the Structural Biology Group at the ESRF where I run MASSIF-1 the world leading beamline for fully automatic data collection - the next generation of automated synchrotron beamlines for Structural Biology. My research interests centre around synchrotron radiation methods development and instrumentation and combining low and high resolution techniques, such as EM and SAXS, with high resolution X-ray crystallography and NMR to investigate the biological transfer of phosphate groups and membrane protein structure and function.
The process of structure solution of biological macromolecules relies heavily on method development. Automation has played a key role in the solution of many important complexes and, at the ESRF, is (in collaboration with the instrumentation group at the EMBL, Grenoble) and the extraction of the best quality data and experimental feedback through advanced screening methods. These developments come together in the new MX facility, MASSIF - the next generation of automated synchrotron beamlines for Structural Biology.. Our research focuses on ultra-high throughput robotics for the MASSIF beamlines, improving the diffraction characteristics of crystals through
Svensson, O., Monaco, S., Popov, A. N., Nurizzo, D. & Bowler, M. W.‡ (2015). Fully automatic characterization and data collection from crystals of biological macromolecules, Acta Cryst. D71 1757-1767
Bowler M.W.‡,Nurizzo, D., et al. (2015) MASSIF-1: A beamline dedicated to the fully automatic characterisation and data collection from crystals of biological macromolecules J. Sync. Rad. 22 1540-1547
Bowler, M.G. and Bowler, M.W.‡ (2014) Measurement of the intrinsic variability within protein crystals: implications for sample evaluation and data collection strategies, Acta Cryst. F70, 127-132
Pellegrini, E., Piano, D. and Bowler, M.W.‡ (2011) Direct cryocooling of naked crystals: Are cryoprotection agents always necessary? Acta Cryst. D67, 902-906
Our work on the biological transfer of phosphate groups, in collaboration with Prof. Jon Waltho (University of Sheffield, UK), aims to determine the chemistry of this fundamental reaction. The transfer of phosphoryl groups is probably the most important enzyme-catalysed reaction in biology. All organisms use phosphate in the form of ATP to store and transmit energy and phosphoryl transfer is also used to control processes as diverse as cell signalling, regulation of cellular division, membrane structure and enzyme function. Consequently, a huge number of enzymes, up to 10% of the human genome, have evolved to catalyse phosphoryl transfer. Dissecting how these enzymes catalyse the reaction is of vital importance in understanding the cellular processes they regulate and perhaps designing drugs to target specific pathways. We use analogues of the transition state of phosphoryl transfer, magnesium trifluoride (MgF3-), aluminium tetrafluoride (AlF4-) and the ground state analogue beryllium trifluoride (BeF3-), to study the structure of these complexes using high resolution X-ray crystallography in combination with 19F-NMR and other techniques, such as SAXS.
We are working on the role membrane proteins play in the enormous resistance of the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans (DR) to a variety of extreme conditions. The first line of defense of prokaryotes to environmental shock are the surface layer (or S-layer) proteins of the outer membrane. In DR these proteins form hexagonal crystalline planes covering the outer membrane acting as protective layer with proposed roles as diverse as ion traps to that of an exoskeleton. The S-layer has been studied extensively with a wealth of biochemical data and its macrostructure has been investigated by electron microscopy. However, molecular details of its assembly and response to its environment remain unknown. The S-layer protein from native D. radiodurans membranes has been purified and we are proceeding with structural studies.
We are also working on the ATP synthase from eubacteria, the central energy generating complex in all forms of life. Using a combination of SAXS and X-ray crystallography we hope to gain greater insights into this large membrane bound molecular motor.