Professor of Protein Crystallography

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Research themes:

Structural biology of medically-relevant proteins, Development of new likelihood-based methods for macromolecular crystallography

Description of research

Research in my group is in the field of protein crystallography. Crystallography is the primary method for determining the three-dimensional structure of a protein, which provides an essential framework for a detailed understanding of its biochemistry. We work both on extending the scope and power of the methods used in protein crystallography, and on applying those methods to determine new protein structures. In choosing what to study we focus on proteins involved in pathogenesis and disease, the structures of which can be exploited in the development of new therapies.

One focus of recent structural work has been on members of the serpin family, most of which undergo an extraordinary conformational change on cleavage by proteases. The structures of two hormone-binding globulins show how they harness this conformational change to deliver thyroxine and cortisol to their sites of action. Our work on angiotensinogen, the source of the hormone angiotensin, has shed new light on how blood pressure is modulated. We also have an interest in enzymes mutated in inherited metabolic diseases. The structures of galactocerebrosidase and iduronate sulphatase are helping to understand how mutations in these enzymes lead to Krabbe disease and Hunter syndrome.

In crystallographic theory, we focus on the understanding of probability distributions relating the structure factors that arise from the diffraction experiment. A detailed understanding of these probability distributions underlies new developments in maximum likelihood methods, which we are implementing in our program Phaser. The current version of Phaser can solve structures by molecular replacement (i.e. using the known structures of related proteins), by using the information from single-wavelength anomalous diffraction (SAD), and by a combination of the two. In a collaboration with the developers of the modelling program Rosetta, we have been excited to find that the combination of molecular replacement and advanced modelling can solve structures that elude previous methods.

Research focus

Keywords: Non-inhibitory serpins, Maximum likelihood

Clinical conditions: Hypertension and pre-eclampsia, Lysosomal storage diseases, Krabbe disease, Hunter Syndrome

Methodologies: Macromolecular crystallography, Software development

H-Index: 51

Cambridge collaborators

Robin W Carrell, Janet E Deane, Willem H Ouwehand, Penelope E Stein, David Ron

Other collaborators

Paul Adams, Tom Terwilliger, David and Jane Richardson, David Baker


Key Publications

  • McCoy, A.J., Grosse-Kunstleve, R.W., Adams, P.D., Winn, M.D., Storoni, L.C. and Read, R.J. (2007). Phaser crystallographic software. J. Appl. Cryst. 40: 658-674.
  • Zhou, A., Carrell, R.W., Murphy, M.P., Wei, Z., Yan, Y., Stanley, P.L.D., Stein, P.E., Broughton Pipkin, F. and Read, R.J. (2010). A redox switch in angiotensinogen modulates angiotensin release. Nature 468: 108-111.
  • DiMaio, F., Terwilliger, T.C., Read, R.J., Wlodawer, A., Oberdorfer, G., Wagner, U., Valkov, E., Alon, A., Fass, D., Axelrod, H.L., Das, D., Vorobiev, S.M., Iwaï, H., Pokkuluri, P.R. and Baker, D. (2011). Improving molecular replacement by density- and energy-guided protein structure optimization. Nature 473: 540-543.
  • Chan, W.L., Carrell, R.W., Zhou, A. and Read, R.J. (2013). How changes in affinity of corticosteroid-binding globulin modulate free cortisol concentration. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 98: 3315–3322.


PhD Supervisions

Professor Read is pleased to consider applications from prospective PhD students.