What are you doing at Harwell Open Day?
We’ll be doing a number of fun things at our exhibit… looking at how proteins are made up of amino acids with pipe-cleaners… making crystals out of a protein called lysozyme… and looking at how we purify proteins with some green fluorescent protein!
How does it relate to you work?
We want to know what proteins look like in minute detail so that we can see how they function in the human body or how they mis-function in someone with a disease. To be able to look at a protein we need to make lots of it and to purify it away from any contaminating proteins. The protein purification column on our exhibit is one of the methods we use to purify all of our proteins however in the real world most of the proteins we work with are not green and fluorescent but are colourless.
Purifying proteins in the lab
(The yellow liquid contains a chemical called flavin adenine dinucleotide which reacts with many proteins)
After we have purified our protein, we want to make crystals and so use a similar set up to the one on the exhibit to make our protein crystals. We then use Diamond Light Source to help us to find out the structure of our protein.
Some pretty protein crystals
This protein structure is made up of building blocks called amino acids which form a chain which is folded. This is something you can visualize at our stand using pipe-cleaners.
An amino acid chain and a representation in pipe-cleaners
What is the take home message?
How long did you take to prepare for Harwell Open Day?
We’ve been thinking about this for quite a few months although we have done these activities on previous public open days so we already had a good idea of what works and is fun. It will take us about 2-3 hours to set up the exhibit on the day before and a similar amount of time to take it down.
Why are you taking part in Harwell Open Day?
We enjoy talking to the public about what we do and inspiring the next generation of scientists.
And here is some more in depth scientific information about the Oxford Protein Production Facility.