Cover-ted coup for researchers

29 October 2007

Up front: Prof Heini Dirr, the Research Chair for Structural Biology in South Africa (right) and Electron Microscope Unit director Prof Trevor Sewell (left) were on hand to congratulate the three researchers Robert Ndoria, Jason van Rooyen and Serah Kimani.

Atriumvirate of structural biology postgraduate students working in the Electron Microscope Unit (EMU) has notched up an exceptional achievement: their work appears on the front covers of three respected journals carrying their research papers.

On hand to present framed copies of the covers to Serah Kimani, Jason van Rooyen and Robert Ndoria were Professor Heini Dirr, Research Chair for Structural Biology in South Africa, and Professor Trevor Sewell, EMU director.

PhD student Van Rooyen's research on a type III glutamine synthetase enzyme was selected for the cover of the Journal of Molecular Biology.

“This enzyme comes from the medically important opportunistic human pathogen, Bacteroides fragilis, which is the primary causative agent of abdominal infections and anaerobic septicaemia following trauma to or surgery on the digestive tract.”

Currently in the second year of his doctoral study in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and based at the EMU, Ndoria's paper was published in the FEBS Journal in April this year.

He is pursuing high-resolution studies by cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray structure analysis of various mutants of the Rhodococcus rhodochrous nitrilase.

A PhD student in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, Kimani's paper was published in Biological Crystallography.

It describes her determination of the crystal structure of the amidase enzyme from Geobacillus pallidus RAPc8 thermophilic bacteria.

“This enzyme is important as a biocatalyst and may find applications in the manufacture of drugs, and may indeed be a template for a drug target in both malaria and tuberculosis.”

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