Ana Almeida

PhD Student (PD/BD/135477/2017) (2018-2022)
PhD Programme: Radiation Biology and Biophysics
Field of Expertise: Biochemical and Biophysical Characterization of Biomacromolecules

Research Areas

Thematic line: “Encapsulin System of M. xanthus – Novel Cage Proteins” and “Control of iron Bioavailability via Dps, a miniferritin”.

PhD Thesis: “Functional characterization and design of protein nanocages”

Advisers: Prof.ª Doutora Alice S. Pereira and Prof. Doutor Pedro Tavares

Cell compartmentalization allows to increase metabolite concentration in a restricted region and to ensure the correct storage of toxic and reactive intermediates. Protein-based nanocages have gained interest as nanocarriers and nanoreactors. They are composed of multiple subunits that self-assemble to form a hollow symmetric complex structure of nanometer size. The members of the ferritin family are one of such system, displaying a large range of internal cavity sizes. The smallest protein of this family is Dps (DNA-binding Protein from Starved cells) with an outer diameter of 9 nm, while the largest, the canonical ferritins have 12 nm. Recently, a new class of prokaryotic compartment proteins have been structurally characterized, termed encapsulin shell proteins. Encapsulins are large proteins that, depending of natural origin, can assemble into structures with outer diameters ranging from 25 to 35 nm. They have been described as iron storage proteins such as ferritins. Besides they are also able to encapsulate proteins and enzymes. Through this doctoral thesis research project, we aim to characterize these cages proteins and its biological mechanism using a large array of biophysical techniques such as Mössbauer Spectroscopy, EPR, SAXS and ASAXS, CD and RSCD, DLS and UV/visible Spectroscopy.