He said the VESKI Fellowship would enable the lab to use this set of techniques to study the membrane embedded portions of receptors. "We are going to be studying 'stress' receptors on natural killer (NK) cells," Dr Call said. "When a cell has turned cancerous, is physically injured, or infected by a virus, it sends out a set of cell surface proteins that are a 'distress flag' to the immune system. The receptors we study recognise some of those flags and mark the cells as targets for NK cells."
The work is particularly difficult because proteins embedded in the fatty cell membrane are oily and sticky, and can't be manipulated using standard techniques. "One of the problems with the field is that the proteins are really difficult to work with," Dr Call said. "They are difficult to make, they are difficult to purify and, even when you've done that, it's difficult to know what to do with them to identify their function."
Dr Call said that targeting the movements and interactions that take place within the cell membrane could generate a whole new class of drugs. "Most drugs do one of two things: they either target something on the outside of the cell, or the drug crosses the cell membrane and inhibits something going on within the cell. But there is an entire class of molecules that like to live within the fatty cell membrane and we are starting to look at the parts of proteins that sit inside the cell membrane as potential drug targets of the future."
Institute director Professor Doug Hilton said the VESKI Fellowship provided an excellent opportunity to recruit outstanding international researchers to Australia. "Dr Call's research is at the frontier of the structural biology field," he said. "The new ideas and techniques that Dr Call has brought to this area are unique in the world."
|Contact: Liz Williams|
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute