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 diseases.
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 membrane proteins that are linked to ion homeostasis and in particular transport of transition metals across cellular membranes. Our current targets include P-type ATPases aquaporins and ion channels of various kinds. Underscoring the significance of these types of proteins, malfunctioning of different membrane proteins have been associated with diseases ranging from brain edema, to cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.
The structural studies are complemented with biochemical characterization in vivo and in vitro, using 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
Salustros N, Grønberg C, Abeyrathna NS, Lyu P, Orädd F, Wang K, Andersson M, Meloni G, & Gourdon P (2022). Structural basis of ion uptake in copper-transporting P1B-type ATPases. Nature Communications 13 (1):5121
Li P, Hendricks AL, Wang Y, Villones RLE, Lindkvist-Petersson K, Meloni G, Cowan JA, Wang K & Gourdon P (2022). Structures of Atm1 provide insight into [2Fe-2S] cluster export from mitochondria. Nature Communications 13(1):4339
Wiuf A, Steffen JH, Becares ER, Grønberg C, Mahato DR, Rasmussen SGF, Andersson M, Croll T, Gotfryd K & Gourdon P (2022). The two-domain elevator-type mechanism of zinc-transporting ZIP proteins. Science Advances 8(28):eabn4331
Grønberg C, Hu Q, Mahato DR, Longhin E, Salustros N, Duelli A, Lyu P, Bågenholm V, Eriksson J, Rao KU, Henderson DI, Meloni G, Andersson M, Croll T, Godaly G, Wang K & Gourdon P (2021). Structure and ion-release mechanism of PIB-4-type ATPases. Elife 10:e73124
Li P, Wang K, Salustros N, Grønberg C & Gourdon P. Structure and transport mechanism of P5B-ATPases (2021). Nature Communications 12(1):3973
Wang K, Dagil R, Lavstsen T, Misra SK, Spliid CB, Wang Y, Gustavsson T, Sandoval DR, Vidal-Calvo EE, Choudhary S, Agerbaek MØ, Lindorff-Larsen K, Nielsen MA, Theander TG, Sharp JS, Clausen TM, Gourdon P & Salanti A (2021). Cryo-EM reveals the architecture of placental malaria VAR2CSA and provides molecular insight into chondroitin sulfate binding. Nature Communications 12(1):2956
The Membrane Protein Structural Biology Group has received grants from a number of foundations.
Associate Professor Pontus Gourdon has received Lundbeck Foundation Ascending Investigator from The Lundbeck Foundation.
Gourdon 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).
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.
The Swedish Research Council support our research activities.
The Membrane Protein Structual Biology Group has received grants from Vera og Carl Johan Michaelsens Legat, Agnes & Poul Friis Fond, the Augustinus Foundation and Brødrene Hartmanns Foundation.
International research partners
Erik Lindahl and Magnus Andersson, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Urban Johanson and Per Kjellbom, Lund University, Sweden.
|Dennis Thiele, Duke University, USA|
|José Argüello, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, USA|
|Gabriele Meloni, Dallas University at Texas, USA|
National research partners
|Poul Nissen, Aarhus University.|
|Per Amstrup Pedersen, University of Copenhagen.|
|Lisbeth Birk Møller, the Kennedy Center.|
|Rosa Lopez and Thomas Günther-Pomorski, University of Copenhagen.|
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, Postdoc
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.
Liying Zhang, PhD, Postdoc
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.
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.
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.
Viktoria Bågenholm, PhD, Postdoc
Jie Wang, PhD, Postdoc
Jonas Hyld Steffen, PhD Student
Zongxin Guo, PhD student
Kamil Gotfryd, PhD, Associate Professor
Kamil obtained his MSc degree in Biotechnology at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland. Afterwards, he moved to Denmark and joined a PhD programme at the Copenhagen University. After gaining his PhD, he continued his scientific career in the Molecular Neuropharmacology Group headed by Prof. Ulrik Gether. He then worked as an Associate Professor in our group at Copenhagen University studying biomedically important targets implicated in human metabolism.
Christina Grønberg, PhD, Postdoc
She has studied Medicinal Chemistry at Aarhus University 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 MSc in Poul Nissen’s group in Aarhus. Christina was then continuing as a PhD student seeking to structurally and functionally characterize different transition metal transporting P-type ATPases. She continued as a BRIDGE fellow focusing on drug development for neuromuscular diseases, in collaboration with NMD Pharma.
Julie Winkel Missel, Phd, Postdoc
She completed her MSc in biochemistry in 2016 at Per Amstrup Pedersen’s laboratory at the Institute of Biology, University of Copenhagen. Julie started her PhD studies in 2016 where she aimed towards getting a deeper understanding of the structure and mechanism of aquaporins. Following her graduation, she continued as a postdoc focusing on production ion channels using Xenopus oocytes and HEK cells.
Elena Longhin, PhD student
She earned her MSc in Biotechnology at the University of Parma, Italy. She started in our group in Copenhagen as Research Assistant, following her interest in the challenges offered by the structural characterization of membrane proteins. She continued her work as PhD student, working on structural characterization of the zinc-transporting P-type ATPases.
Qiaoxia Hu, PhD student
She obtained her MSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Shandong University in China. She is very interested in structural biology because of the associated challenges. She then started her PhD studies in our group at University of Copenhagen to approach the structure and function of transition metal P-type ATPases.
Eva Ramos Bécares, PhD student.
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. Eva then became a PhD student in our group at University of Copenhagen. Her project aims to elucidate the structural and functional basis of zinc translocation.
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. Then she returned to our group for her PhD, aiming to gain deeper insights into aquaporin structure and function.
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. In February 2017 Anders joined our group as a PhD student working with expression, purification and characterization of bacterial zinc transporters (ZIPs).
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 joined the group as a PhD student hoping to shed further light on the structures of membrane proteins.
Henriette Elisabeth Autzen, PhD, Postdoc
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. 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.
Jette Skov Alstrøm, MSc
She obtained her MSc in Molecular Biomedicine at the University of Copenhagen. She focused on structural characterization of connexin channels (gap junctions and hemichannels) while recruited as a research assistant in our group.
Martina Tamburello, BSc.
Martina took her BSc in Biology at the 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. Her work focused on the purification and crystallization of a zinc-transporting P-type ATPase.
Kamil Górecki, PhD, Postdoc
Originally from Poland, where he earned his MSc in inorganic chemistry. He moved to the other side of the Baltic Sea to pursue PhD studies in Prof. Cecilia Hägerhäll group, Lund University, Sweden. While working as a postdoc in our group, he focused on structural and functional properties of copper transporters.
Alba Ferrer Pérez
She was enrolled in the last year of her BSc of Biochemistry at the Universitat de València. She did a three-month Erasmus traineeship in our group, because she wanted to learn more about how to work with membrane proteins. Here, she was working with a zinc-transporting P-type ATPase.
Md Tamim Al Jubair, PhD, Postdoc
He is from Bangladesh and received his BSc in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering from Khulna University, Bangladesh. He moved to Sweden and received a MSc in Protein Science from Lund University. Tamim began his PhD studies in the group of Kristian Riesbeck where worked in close collaboration with Susanna Törnroth-Horsefield (at Lund University). He was employed as a postdoctoral researcher in our group focusing on different heavy metal transporting P-type ATPases.
Hafsa Saeed, visiting PhD student
She studied Molecular Biology in her home country from University of the Punjab, Pakistan. She joined our group for six months as a 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.
Aurélie Dupuis, BSc.
Aurélie studied Biomedical Sciences at the University of Mons, Belgium. She performed an internship in our group here in Copenhagen. She worked on the structural and functional characterization of zinc-transporting P-type ATPases, focused on the production, purification and crystallization of some mutants.
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.