Research

Work in my lab uses biochemistry and structural biology to answer questions about how pathogenic bacteria survive in their host.

Haemoglobin receptors of Neisseria. Pathogenic Neisseria species cause life threatening illness (N. meningitidis - meningitis and septicaemia) and sexually transmitted disease (N. gonorrhoeae - gonorrhoea). For survival in their human host, Neisseria must acquire iron. However, proteins such as haemoglobin bind almost all iron inside the host, leaving very little bioavailable iron for pathogens. To overcome this Neisseria express outer membrane proteins that are able to extract iron directly from host proteins, including haemoglobin. We are currently studying the structural basis of haem iron extraction from haemoglobin by the HpuAB system and have demonstrated how the surface lipoprotein HpuA binds haemoglobin using functional loops that remarkably show a high degree of sequence variation (Wong et al., 2015). We further aim to discover the structural basis of the haem group removal by HpuB.