Membrane Protein Structural Biology Group
The Membrane Protein Structural Biology Group works on structural and functional characterizing of membrane proteins that are essential for human health and highly attractive targets in the treatment of disease.
The overarching aim is to reveal the molecular principles and determinants of transport processes across cellular membranes for these proteins. To this end, we use a number of complementary techniques centered on X-ray crystallography and cryo-EM using the latest techniques to study structure-function-disease relationships of membrane proteins.
Membrane proteins are of critical importance to nearly every aspect of cell physiology, comprising about one-third of all proteins. Compared to soluble proteins, however, an understanding at the molecular-level for the membrane bound counterparts lags far behind. This lack of structural knowledge significantly impairs our understanding of the functions and mechanisms of these proteins, hereby preventing further applied, biomedical and biotechnological research.
The focus of our group is eukaryotic and prokaryotic proteins that are linked to ion homeostasis and in particular transport of transition metals across cellular membranes. Our current targets include P-type ATPases of class IB (see figure) but also ion channels of various kinds. Underscoring the significance of these types of proteins, malfunctioning of the two human class IB P-type ATPases give rise to the severe Menkes’ and Wilson’s diseases, respectively.
The structural studies are complemented with biochemical characterization in vivo (complementation) and in vitro, using for example ICP-MS, EXAFS, ITC, thermophoresis and molecular dynamics simulations in our own group and in association with a network of international partners.
Selection of recent publications
Purification of Functional Human TRP Channels Recombinantly Produced in Yeast. Zhang L, Wang K, Klaerke DA, Calloe K, Lowrey L, Pedersen PA, Gourdon P, Gotfryd K (2019). Cells. 8(2). pii: E148. doi: 10.3390/cells8020148.
Human adipose glycerol flux is regulated by a pH gate in AQP10. Gotfryd K, Mósca AF, Missel JW, Truelsen SF, Wang K, Spulber M, Krabbe S, Hélix-Nielsen C, Laforenza U, Soveral G, Pedersen PA, Gourdon P (2018). Nature Communications 9(1):4749.
Isolation and Characterization of Nanobodies against a Zinc-Transporting P-Type ATPase. Longhin E, Grønberg C, Hu Q, Duelli AS, Andersen KR, Laursen NS, Gourdon P (2018). Antibodies 7(4), 39
Letter in Nature
Pontus Gourdon’s research is in Nature: ‘Structure and mechanism of
Zn(II)-transporting P-type ATPases’.
Review in Biochemistry
Read our recent publication 'Structure and Function of Cu(I)- and Zn(II)-ATPases.'
Research article in PLos Biology
Our recent paper ‘Crystal Structure of an Ammonia-Permeable Aquaporin’
The Membrane Protein Structural Biology Group has received grants from a number of foundations.
Associate Professor Pontus Gourdon has received Lundbeck Foundation Fellowship from The Lundbeck Foundation.
He is also a Wallenberg Academy Fellow supported by Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation.
We are also supported by the Danish Council for Independent Research - Medical Sciences (FSS) and The Danish Council for Independent Research - Natural Sciences (FNU) through two project grants and also a three-year FSS post-doc fellowship to Kaituo Wang.
The Lundbeck Foundation has also supported the group with sources for a PhD position as well as a one-year post-doc fellowship to Kaituo Wang
The Membrane Protein Structual Biology Group has received grants from The Novo Nordisk Foundation.
The Carlsberg Foundation has supported the Membrane Protein Structual Biology Group with a grant for equipment and with Henriette Autzen's current one-year post-doc fellowship.
Anette Duelil's post-doc is partly supported by The William Harvey International Translational Research Academy
The Swedish Research Council support our research activities.
International research partners
Dennis Thiele, Duke University, USA
José Argüello, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA
Gabriele Meloni, Dallas University at Texas, USA
National research partners
Per Amstrup Pedersen, University of Copenhagen.
The Membrane Protein Structural Biology group is constantly looking for highly motivated Bachelor and Master students. We would also like to hear from excellent PhD student candidates and postdocs.
You can contact Pontus Gourdon for further information.
Kamil Gotfryd, PhD, Associate Professor
Obtained his MSc degree in Biotechnology at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Afterwards, he moved to Denmark and joined a PhD programme at the Protein Laboratory at Copenhagen University. After gaining his PhD, he continued his scientific career in the Molecular Neuropharmacology Group headed by Prof. Ulrik Gether. Kamil engaged in structure-function studies of neurotransmitter:sodium:symporters, a protypical class of secondary active ion-coupled transporters conserved from bacteria to man, focusing on mechanistic characterization of the leucine transporter (LeuT). He now works as an associate professor in our group at Copenhagen University studying biomedically-important targets implicated in human metabolism.
Kaituo Wang, PhD, Assistant Professor
Took his PhD in Prof. Xiao-Dong Su’s laboratory at the prestigious Peking University (China), and then went on to Prof. Poul Nissen's group in Aarhus (Denmark). Kaituo's efforts were essential for recovering the first crystal structures of a zinc-transporting P-type ATPase that were published in Nature recently. Now at University of Copenhagen and at UCLA (through a collaboration with the group of Prof. Zhou Hong), he continues this work, while at the same time focusing on structural and functional characterization of other proteins involved in ion flux across cellular membranes. Kaituo loves Chinese delicacies and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, he is also a big fan of karaoke and Danish rugbrød.
Ping Li, PhD, post-doc.
Ping took his PhD in Tianjin Key Laboratory of Protein Science, Nankai University, China, and then moved to the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Singapore, where he focused on structural studies of a two-component sensor. He is now working in our group at Lund University, focusing on proteins linked to copper transport across cellular membranes. His main scientific interest regards the elucidation of copper uptake and resistance, therefore his project focuses on structural and functional studies of proteins associated with prokaryotic copper flux across cellular membranes. In his spare time, he enjoys watching and playing football.
Christina Grønberg, PhD, Postdoc
She has studied Medicinal Chemistry at Aarhus University, her hometown, and selected the “Analysis, Structure and Design” program after the first year, due to the importance of three-dimensional structures of proteins for research and drug development. Christina then did her Master thesis in Poul Nissen’s group in Aarhus, focusing on the overproduction, purification and crystallization of PIV P-type ATPases (also known as flippase). Christina is now continuing along these lines as a PhD student, and seeks to structurally and functionally characterize different transition metal transporting P-type ATPases. Besides doing science, she enjoys exploring new places, mountain biking and socializing.
Liying Zhang, PhD student
Obtained her MSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from State Key Laboratory Of Silkworm Genome Biology in Chongqing (China) focusing on exploring the sex control mechanism of silkworm. Liying has now chosen to enter the new field of protein structure biology, carrying out her PhD studies in Pontus Gourdon’s group at the University of Copenhagen. In her leisure time, Liying Zhang enjoys staying with friends and reading the novel of Martial Arts.
Julie Winkel Missel, PhD student
She completed her Master’s degree in biochemistry in 2016 at Per Amstrup Pedersen’s laboratory at the Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen. Her thesis focused on expressing eukaryotic membrane proteins using S. cerevisiae as an expression platform for subsequent structural and functional studies. Julie started her PhD studies in July 2016 where she is aiming towards getting a deeper understanding of the structure and mechanism of aquaporins. She is the youngest PhD student in our group, and in her spare time she enjoys going to music concerts and playing video games.
Elena Longhin, PhD student
Originally from Venice (Italy), she earned her MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Parma (Italy), where she focused on the characterization of proteins relevant for human health. She started in our group in Copenhagen as Research Assistant, following her interest in the challenges offered by the structural characterization of membrane proteins. Now, she is continuing her work as PhD student, working on structural characterization of the zinc-transporting P-type ATPases. When she is outside the lab, she loves watching sci-fi movies and biking.
Niloofar Nayeri, PhD student
She is from Iran originally. Niloofar has a huge interest in figuring out exactly how proteins are and function. Following her interest, she took a BSc in general biology in Iran, and then a MSc in protein science at Lund University (Sweden). Her master's project was performed in Derek Logan's group working on production of ribonucleotide reductases and discovering the role of their ATP-cones. She has now joined the group of Pontus Gourdon in Lund where we are after structural and functional properties of proteins linked to copper homeostasis. Off science, there is an art-loving Niloofar following different types of art. She is also into cooking and deeply in love with Siberian huskies.
Qiaoxia Hu, PhD student
She obtained her MSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Shandong University in China focusing on orphan GPCRs. She is very interested in structural biology because of the associated challenges. She has now started her PhD studies in our group at University of Copenhagen to approach the structure and function of transition metal P-type ATPases. In her leisure time, she likes to read and run.
Eva Ramos Bécares, PhD student.
Eva comes originally from Spain, where she obtained her BSc in biochemistry from the Complutense University of Madrid. Subsequently, she moved to the Netherlands, where she got her MSc in Biotechnology at Wageningen University. In the meantime, she carried out an online MSc in Bioinformatics and Biostatistics at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. In September 2016, Eva moved to Copenhagen in order to do an Internship at Novozymes. Motivated to further broaden her experience as a researcher and understanding the correlation between protein structure and functionality, Eva has now become a PhD student in our group at University of Copenhagen. Her project aims to elucidate the structural and functional basis of zinc translocation. Besides being in the lab, she likes spending time with friends and enjoying a good series/movie.
Nina Salustros, PhD student
She has studied Biochemistry at Goethe-University Frankfurt am Main, Germany. As part of her studies, Nina has been an intern in Pontus Gourdon's Group in Copenhagen, where she focused on overproduction, purification and crystallization of copper transporting P-type ATPases. Back in Germany, she finished her MSc studies at the Department of Structural Biology at the Max Planck Institute of Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main, where she did single-particle cryo-EM studies on the yeast fatty acid synthase complex. Now she has returned to our group for her PhD, aiming to gain deeper insights into aquaporin structure and function. In her leisure time, Nina loves playing basketball, bouldering, meeting friends and exploring Scandinavia.
Anders Wiuf, PhD student
He took his BSc in Medicinal Chemistry at the Aarhus University, then continued his studies in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen. Here, Anders worked with Prof. Michael Gajhede on structural and functional studies of human lysine demethylases, first as a master’s student and later as a research assistant. In February 2017 Anders joined our group as a PhD student and is now working with expression, purification and characterization of bacterial zinc transporters (ZIPs). Occasionally, when Anders is not in the lab, you can find him playing darts or cooking a delicious meal with foraged mushrooms.
Pin Lyu, PhD student
Pin obtained her MSc from Tianjin University of Science & Technology (China), and then worked in a structural biology and protein enzyme laboratory at Tianjin Institute of Industrial biotechnology. She was then a research assistant at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Tianjin, where she focused on the purification as well as structural and functional characterization of industrial enzymes. She has now joined the group of Pontus Gourdon at the University of Copenhagen as a PhD student, and hopes to shed further light on the structures of membrane proteins. Pin will focus on structural studies using neutron diffraction. In her leisure time, she likes doing yoga, travelling around the world and making friends.
Hajira Ahmed Hotiana, PhD student
Hajira has a long standing interest in the fields of structural biology and structural pharmacology. Originally from Lahore, Pakistan, she took her Master at the University of London in 2017, where she was involved in the characterization of peptide inhibitors against KSHV infection. She joined the group as a PhD fellow in 2019 to pursue her interest of using structural biology to eradicate diseased states. Hajira will be focusing on structural studies of insulin with chaperones. In her free time, Hajira enjoys travelling, exploring and living life to the fullest.
Henriette Elisabeth Autzen, PhD
She obtained her PhD in Prof. Poul Nissen’s laboratory in Aarhus (Denmark) focusing on two P-type ATPases: the Ca(II)-ATPase SERCA from fast-twitch skeletal muscle and the Cu(I)-ATPase Lpg1024 (LpCopA) from Legionella pneumophila. During her PhD studies, Henriette employed a diverse set of methods within structural biology including both in vivo and in silico approaches. Henriette then continued along those lines for 14 months (2014-2016) within our group through a maintained collaboration with Prof. Poul Nissen's team, focusing on biochemical characterization of the Cu(I)-ATPases. Henriette has now left for a post-doc in Yifan Cheng's laboratory at USCF in San Francisco, USA.
Jette Skov Alstrøm, MSc
She obtained her M.Sc. in Molecular Biomedicin at the University of Copenhagen. Jette performed her Master thesis in Nanna MacAulay’s group where she mainly focused on the regulation of astrocytic connexin hemichannels. She has now chosen to focus on structural characterization of connexin channels (gap junctions and hemichannels) within the framework of the Membrane Protein Structural Biology Group, recruited as a research assistant. Jette uses her free time on volunteer work with children. She is a scout leader and a volunteer on diverse camps with the Young Red Cross.
Martina Tamburello, BSc.
Martina comes from Italy, where she took her BSc in Biology (University of Calabria). Before starting her MSc, she decided to come in Denmark to carry out an internship in our group, in order to acquire new competencies, learn a new language and know a new culture. Her work focuses on the purification and crystallization of a zinc-transporting P-type ATPase. Once back in Italy, she will start her MSc in Cellular Molecular Biology at the University of Bologna (Italy). In her free time she loves travelling with her friends and listening to jazz music.
Kamil Górecki, PhD, Postdoc
Comes originally from Poland, where he earned his MSc in inorganic chemistry. Having always been driven towards the North, he moved to the other side of the Baltic Sea to pursue PhD studies in Prof. Cecilia Hägerhäll group, Lund University (Sweden), with ion transport mechanism of respiratory chain complex I and related proteins as the main subject. Ion transport remains in the spotlight, as his current work in Lund focuses on structural and functional properties of copper transporters. On those rare occasions outside of the laboratory, Kamil enjoys unleashing his creativity on paper or digitally, or both.
Alba Ferrer Pérez
She is enrolled in the last year of her Bachelor Degree of Biochemistry at the Universitat de València. In València, she worked as student assistant for two years at Isabel Fariñas’ group, where she helped doing two main projects: the study of cellular and molecular changes caused by dopaminergic neurodegeneration and the self-renewal process of neuronal stem cells (NSC). She is now doing a three-month Erasmus traineeship in our Danish group, because she wanted to learn more about how to work with membrane proteins. Here, she is working with a zinc-transporting P-type ATPase. She chose Copenhagen because it is an open-minded city with many activities for young people during the summer. In her free time, she likes to go running and spending time with her friends.
Md Tamim Al Jubair, PhD, Postdoc
He is from Bangladesh and received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering from Khulna University, Bangladesh in 2006. He then moved to Sweden in 2008 and received a Master of Science degree in Protein Science from Lund University in 2010. During this period, he became interested in protein structure and function, and he was recruited as a project student for one year in the Marjolein Thunnissen´s laboratory. Tamim then began his PhD studies in the group of Kristian Riesbeck where worked in close collaboration with Susanna Törnroth-Horsefield (all at Lund University) and he completed his degree in 2016. He is currently employed for a brief period of time as a research assistant in our group in Copenhagen, and is looking forward to receive a grant to continue this work as a postdoctoral researcher. Outside the laboratory, Tamim loves to spend time with his family and friends. He is very interested in fishing, gardening, music and films, and loves to play cricket and badminton.
Hafsa Saeed, PhD student
She studied Molecular Biology in her home country from University of the Punjab (Pakistan). She has a great passion to know about the emerging scientific techniques. Following her passion, she has now joined our group for six months as PhD guest researcher to learn state-of-the-art techniques about membrane proteins structural biology, with the aim of better understanding zinc-transporting P-type ATPases. In her leisure time, she likes to cook and spending time with friends and family.
Aurélie Dupuis, BSc.
Aurélie is a Belgian student finishing her master thesis in Biomedical Sciences, coming from the University of Mons. After a year working in Prof. Jean-Marie Collet’s laboratory in human biology and toxicology on cardiac side effects of an anticancer agent in her home institution, she performs her internship in our group here in Copenhagen. She is working with Elena on the structural and functional characterization of zinc-transporting P-type ATPases, focused on the production, purification and crystallization of some mutants. In her free time, she likes cooking for her friends, walking around, listening to rock music and tasting local food.
|Hajira Ahmed Hotiana||PhD student||+45 353-33937|
|Jonas Hyld Steffen||Student|
|Julie Winkel Missel||Postdoc||+45 22 51 30 19|
|Kaituo Wang||Assistant professor|
|Kamil Gotfryd||Associate professor||+45 41 40 28 69|
|Liying Zhang||Research assistant|
|Nina Salustros||PhD student|