biophysical chemistry of membranes


Project 1

Electromechanical controls of membrane transport phenomena (with Associate Professor Toby Allen, RMIT, Melbourne)

Membranes mediate biological activity by providing gateways into cells and homes to a range of proteins with critical functions. In this project novel atomic-level simulations and spectroscopic measurements will be applied to reveal how membrane electrostatic and mechanical properties can modulate the transport of ions and charged peptides, providing understanding for the action of viruses, toxins and antimicrobial peptides and in the development of novel therapeutics, drug delivery and bio-sensing applications.


Project 2

Regulation of the Na+, K+-ATPase in heart (with Professor H. Rasmussen, Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney)

The Na+,K+-ATPase, which pumps Na+ out of cells and K+ in, plays a crucial in muscle contraction in the heart. It is a prime target in the treatment of heart failure. The aim of this project is to understand at the molecular level how this enzyme is regulated in living heart muscle cells. We hope to achieve this by the comparison of experimental kinetic results, obtained by the techniques of whole-cell patch clamp and stopped-flow fluorimetry, with the results of kinetic simulations based on the enzyme’s complete reaction cycle. 


Project 3

Regulation of the Na+, K+-ATPase in kidney (with Professor D. Yingst, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA)

The Na+,K+-ATPase is also responsible for the Na+ concentration gradient across kidney tubules, which is essential for the reabsorption of nutrients into the bloodstream. In kidney the enzyme exists in the membrane in a dimeric form. The aim of this project is to investigate the effect of phosphorylation on protein-protein interactions within the membrane and the role that this might play in hormone-induced regulation of the enzyme in kidney tubule cells.   


Project 4

Optical imaging of membrane dipole potential

The dipole potential is an electrical potential of several hundred millivolts situated within lipid membranes. It has been postulated to play an important role in controlling ion channels and pumps. The aim of this project is to develop a new hydroxyflavone dye as a fluorescent probe of the dipole potential for use in ratiometic fluorescence microscopy and to image the spatial variation of the dipole potential across the surface of vesicles and cells.


For further information, please contact:

Associate Professor Ron Clarke

Room 358

School of Chemistry

Eastern Avenue

University of Sydney NSW 2006

Phone: +61 2 9351 4406

Email ronald.clarke@sydney.edu.au