Dr Michael Webster

Group Leader Building Robustness in Crops (BRiC)

Michael’s research focuses on the molecular machines that express photosynthetic genes.

Photosynthesis produces oxygen and energy that sustains much of life on earth.

In plants it occurs within chloroplasts, which house genes encoding photosynthetic proteins (‘photogenes’) and molecular complexes that transcribe, process and decode them.

Remarkably, gene expression in chloroplasts is achieved by the intimate cooperation between proteins of bacterial and eukaryotic origin. This unique molecular machinery underpins greening in plants and supports their adaptation to the environment.

The Webster lab aim to understand the fundamental mechanisms of photosynthetic gene expression.

They use cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to determine structural models of large protein complexes and develop models of their activity using biochemical and biophysical techniques.

This insight will guide efforts to improve the photosynthetic output of crops and establish methods for the use of plastids as expression platforms for valuable proteins.

The recent advent of high-resolution cryo-EM has transformed our capacity to understand dynamic molecular assemblies.

The group recently employed this technique to structurally characterise the gene expression supramolecular assembly called the expressome. This work shed new light on the intimate coupling between different stages of bacterial gene expression pathway.

They also apply complementary biochemical and biophysical methods that we developed for analysis of eukaryotic mRNA processing complexes to the largely uncharacterised chloroplast gene expression machinery.

Selected Publications

See all of Dr Michael Webster's publications