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Research at MCB
MOLECULAR AND CELL BIOLOGY DEPARTMENT RESEARCH
 

Plant stress research

Plant biotechnology

Plant immune systems

Molecular virology

Eukaryotic gene expression

Host-pathogen interactions

Evolutionary genetics

Physical biochemistry


Molecular genetics of
important bacteria


Marine biotechnology

Antibiotics

Bioinformatics

Teaching methods

Analytical services

Emeritus professors

Structural biology

Plant desiccation research


Prof.s Farrant and Illing, A. and Drs Rafudeen and Ingle. The problem of desiccation in plants is being tackled by a combination of biochemical (identifying and characterisation proteins and polyphenols involved in subcellular protection), molecular genetic (identifying genes that are up and down regulated in desiccation tolerant plants in response to water stress), physiological (measuring changes in respiration, photosynthesis, antioxidant systems during dehydration and rehydration) and cellular biological (looking at the localisation of proteins and genes in cells during dehydration and rehydration) approaches. Resurrection plants, used in this research, are unique in being able to tolerate extreme water loss. These plants are endemic to Southern Africa and the group are leaders in the field (world-wide) in this research. Assoc Prof Brandt and Dr Rodrigues have extended this area of research to focus on desiccation stress in yeast.


Plant biotechnology

Prof. Rybicki and Drs Ingle, Rafudeen and Roden. Research is focussed on developing virus-resistant and drought-tolerant crops, and optimising transient and transgenic expression of pharmaceutically-relevant proteins. Signal transduction in Arabidopsis thaliana is being studied during plant-pathogen and plant-insect interactions, as well as in the control of flowering time.


Plant immune systems

Dr Rob Ingle is characterizing novel components of the plant immune system in collaboration with senior researchers in the UK. He is also working on histidine biosynthesis in plants.


Molecular virology

Prof. Rybicki studies focus on the expression of antigens from human and animal viruses in plants and insect cells for use as human and animal vaccines, and on the genetic diversity and molecular biology of single-stranded DNA viruses.


Eukaryotic gene expression

Prof.s Hapgood and Illing and Dr Roden. Projects include regulation of transcription by steroid receptors and cross talk between signalling pathways in the immune, reproductive and stress responses, the role of chromatin modifications in regulating the onset of flowering, and the regulation of gene expression during neuronal differentiation.


Host-pathogen interactions

Prof.s Hapgood and Sewell and Dr Woodman are investigating the structure, function and posttranslational modification of HIV proteins and their interactions with host proteins with a view to understanding mechanisms of viral pathogenesis and drug development.


Evolutionary genetics

Dr Colleen O’Ryan is interested in molecular evolution and her research focuses on the evolution of neutral DNA markers. These markers are used to reconstruct molecular phylogenies as well as addressing population genetics questions. Prof Illing is interested in the genetic basis of morphological variation in evolution, and is currently investigating the genetic basis of the evolution of the bat wing.


Molecular genetics of industrially and medically important bacteria

A. Prof.s Sharon Reid and Val Abratt. Clostridium acetobutylicum, which produces acetone and butanol, and Bacteroides fragilis, an opportunistic human pathogen are being studied at the molecular level with regard to nitrogen and carbohydrate metabolism. The role played by Bifidobacterium as a probiotic in humans is also under investigation as are the fibre-degrading bacteria in the hindgut of the ostrich.


Marine biotechnology

A. Prof. Vernon Coyne. Research areas include genomic and proteomic studies of the effect of stress and disease on the abalone immune system, the role of marine microorganisms in abalone nutrition and disease resistance, and genomic / proteomic characterisation of the stress and disease response in the red seaweed, Gracilaria gracilis.


Antibiotics

Dr Paul Meyers is investigating South African soil and marine microflora for the identification of novel antibiotics.


Teaching methods
A. Prof. Val Abratt is involved in teaching methods research, and development of teaching multimedia respectively.
Emeritus Professors
Prof.s Horst Klump and Jennifer Thomson have laboratories in MCB.
Structural Biology
Prof. Trevor Sewell of the (EM Unit) has laboratory space in MCB.