Maher - Metallobiology
Dr Megan Maher
Senior Lecturer and Lab Head, College of Science, Health and Engineering
Nearly 30% of all proteins require interaction with a metal ion for biological activity. The mechanisms by which cellular systems acquire essential transition row metals, such as Mn, Fe, Cu, and Zn, at concentrations necessary to support such processes until recently were poorly understood. Originally, the interiors of cells were perceived as metal 'soups', containing significant concentrations of essential trace metals in 'free' forms readily available for insertion as cofactors into proteins and enzymes. This idea evolved from the observation that in vitro many metalloproteins bind metals with extremely high affinities. However, it is now recognized that within cells, there exist specific uptake, resistance, transport and metallo-regulatory systems, which protect organisms against transition metal stresses, and specifically incorporate metals into the proteins and enzymes that require them.
Our laboratory is interested in all components of these protein-based metallo-regulatory systems from the metal transporters embedded in the cell membranes, to the metallochaperones which shuttle metals to their destinations within cells, to the metalloproteins and enzymes which utilize transition metals for activity. The main technique we employ for this research is X-ray crystallography.