News

Wednesday, 24 May 2017
Out today in JBC is a lovely triple resonance NMR structure of one of our favourite proteins, PawS1, done in collaboration with Dr Johan Rosengren from UQ and led by (now ex-) joint PhD student Bastian Franke who's begun a post-doc in Switzerland. The paper "Two Proteins for the Price of One: Structural Studies of the Dual Destiny Preproalbumin with Sunflower Trypsin Inhibitor-1" can be accessed via its DOI.
Monday, 22 May 2017
WA mining mogul Andrew Forrest and his wife Nicola have made a second philanthropic $65 million donation to the Forrest Research Foundation building on their generous donation in 2013. Their donations benefit all five Western Australian universities and represent the largest contribution by private individuals to Australian higher education.
Tuesday, 25 April 2017
Check out this video of Josh which was posted on the UWA FaceBook site as part of World Malaria Day 2017.
Friday, 7 April 2017
Here is our "doppelgängers" art as the March Plant Cell cover accompanying the article on Bowman-Birk Inhibitors.
Archived Lab News

Plants and their evolution in biomedical applications
Our research examines the genetic events that evolve new plant proteins, especially ones with pharmaceutical applications. This not only provides fundamental new knowledge about protein evolution, but also provides opportunities to engineer plants to produce these valuable molecules.

We have discovered precursor proteins and the biosynthetic routes for three very different classes of cyclic peptides, all of interest to drug designers. Combining a background in classical genetics and developmental biology with the biomedical atmosphere of our current location, we find our interests falling into three related areas of research that ask; 1) what are the genetic events that evolved drug-like peptides in plants; 2) how do plants make the peptides created by these genetic events plus how malleable are plants as a drug production system; and 3) can plants reveal the mode-of-action for drugs and enable the design of new drugs? Our goal is to convince the scientific community that plants are not just a source of drugs, but also a viable platform to produce and study them.

Plant Biology

Plant 'genetic backflips' make bioactive peptides

We have characterised the genetic origin for several different peptides of great interest to drug designers and each time we find a precursor, it seems each plant has undergone a genetic rearrangement event to make the peptides. We seek to understand why plants are going out of their way to make such bioactive peptides as well as understand how some of the genetic events came about.

Biomedical

Plants to make new drugs and understand existing drugs

Understanding the biosynthetic route for gene-encoded, bioactive peptides allows one to move these genes into other species and use them as production systems. We are currently working on two seed production systems, one via a sunflower protein and another from a gourd (pumpkin family) family of proteins. We have also started using the model plant Arabidopsis to study in-use human drugs.

Biochemistry

How plants bend, fold, cut and glue proteins into rings

We have stumbled upon an extraordinary case of protein hijack in sunflower where a protease inhibiting peptide ring is processed out of a much larger and completely unrelated protein. It is offering an opportunity to study the co-option of proteases to perform ligation reactions as well as begin to appreciate the role that chaperones play in this process both in vitro and in vivo.