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Academic Staff

Dr Jody Mason

Position in departmentOn leave all year
Staff positionSenior Lecturer in Biochemistry
Emailjmason@essex.ac.uk
Telephone01206 873010
Room5.03
Biography
  • 2011-present – Senior Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex
  • 2007-2011 – Lecturer, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Essex
  • 2003-2007 – Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Biology III, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.
  • 2001-2003 - Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Biomolecular Sciences, UMIST (University of Manchester).
  • 2000-2001 – Temporary Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Biochemistry, University of Bristol.
  • 1997-2000 - Ph.D. in Protein folding. Department of Biochemistry, University of Bristol. (Supervisor Prof. Tony Clarke).
  • 1994-1997 - B.Sc. (Hons) Biochemistry. University of Bristol.
Research interests

Our research interests centre on protein-protein interactions, particularly coiled coil and amyloid-based proteins, and understanding how key interactions achieve stability and specificity. This makes use of ‘Protein-fragment Complementation Assays’ (PCA) to screen libraries and select peptides or proteins with significant improvements in stability over wild-type interactors. Specificity of protein-protein interactions can be further improved by using a ‘Competitive And Negative Design Initiative’ (CANDI) which I have developed to maximise the energy barrier between desired and non-desired protein pairs. Work currently being undertaken includes:

  • Design and screening of coiled coil based libraries, particularly for the oncogenic Jun-Fos Activator Protein-1 (AP-1) motif, to investigate the role of key residues in stability and specificity.
  • Monitoring the folding of natural and designed variants of protein-protein interactions to understand how stability and specificity is manifested at the kinetic level.
  • Generating peptides to bind, reverse, and prevent amyloid fibril formation, particularly for beta-amyloid, the primary factor implicated in Alzheimer’s disease (see Essex Research into Ageing).
  • Development of our Wellcome Trust funded game 'Cascade' -  being designed in collaboration with Fayju. Cascade seeks to increase Alzheimer's disease awareness, understanding, empathy, and to highlight the desperate need for a cure.

Research Details
We focus on the coiled coil system as it is simplistic, but highly specific, being ubiquitous and important for many biological processes; found 3-5% of the entire coding sequence it serves in transcriptional control, muscle contraction, viral infection, cell signaling, molecular chaperones, and fertilization, and is therefore the ideal test-bed on which to test specificity. In addition, many of the rules arising from interactions involving coiled coils are also applicable to other protein-protein interactions. Coiled coils are characterized by a regular repeating unit of seven amino acids (a heptad repeat) labelled a-g, with a specific pattern of hydrophobic and hydrophilic residues.

The Jun and Fos coiled coil proteins from the mammalian transcription factor activator protein-1 (AP-1) consist of a variety of cellular homologues which are expressed in different tissues, leading to increased levels of proliferation, invasion, and metastasis when upregulated. A variety of oncogenic signaling pathways converge on AP-1 which ultimately controls gene expression patterns. Accordingly, designing inhibitors to sequester specific AP-1 components is of great interest for analytical as well as therapeutic purposes. Such inhibitors are derived using a semirational library approach combined with a protein fragment complementation assay (PCA) for selecting librarymembers with highest affinity. In PCA, one half of murine dihydrofolate reductase (mDHFR) is genetically fused to the target, and the second half of mDHFR is fused to the protein library. Only library members binding to the peptide target will bring the two halves of DHFR together, render the enzyme active, and result in a bacterial colony under selective conditions. Subsequent growth competitions under selective conditions enrich the “winning” peptides, which can then be characterised.

To increase interaction specificity, we added homologous competitors to the PCA system. In this new system, library members must not only bind their target (positive design) but also bind it with higher affinity than the competitor (competition) and also evade binding to the competitor itself (negative design). Consequently, we term this a “competitive and negative design initiative” (CANDI). To demonstrate in vivo negative design, we combined CANDI with PCA selection, where non-DHFR-fragment fusions of cFos or cJun are used to compete with libraries, for an interaction with Jun and Fos target peptides.

Group Members:

Previous Group Members:

  • Dr Tara Rao
  • Dr Miao Yu
  • Dr Richard Crooks
  • Dr Asma Salman

PublicationsLink to publications for Jody Mason
Conferences/presentations

Invited Seminars

  • Invited Speaker with Fayju: Pervasive Media, The Watershed Bristol 11/2013
  • Invited Speaker: RSC Chemistry and Biology of Peptides meeting, Nottingham 07/2013
  • Invited Speaker: Protein-Protein Interactions:  Emerging Science and Therapeutic Potential, The Royal Society, London 01/2013
  • Invited Speaker: 32nd European Peptide Symposium, Athens, 09/2012.
  • Invited Speaker: Prion and Alzheimer's Disease Chemical Biology Workshop, University of Sheffield, 04/2012
  • Cafe Scientifique public seminar, Colchester, 04/2012.
  • Invited Speaker: Parkinson's UK branch meeting, Maldon, 04/2012
  • Invited Speaker: 'Research Across the Boundaries' Krebs Symposium, Sheffield, 02/2012.
  • Invited Speaker: PepTalk, Coronado, San Diego, 01/2012.
  • Cafe Scientifique public seminar, Beverley, 10/2011.
  • Invited Seminar, University of Hull, 10/2011.
  • Co-organiser Protein Society Conference at the University of Essex: "Dynamics within and between proteins", Colchester, 09/2011.
  • Speaker at Parkinsons Disease Carers Day, Colchester, 05/2011.
  • Invited Speaker: The Peptide Conference, Cambridge, 04/2011.
  • Invited Speaker: RSC Sponsored Regional meeting on Single Molecule Spectropscopy of Biological Systems, Cambridge, 04/2011.
  • Royal Society of Chemistry sponsored Talk: Protein-protein interactions at the Interface of Biology and Chemistry meeting, Norwich, 09/2010.
  • Invited Seminar, Biofocus, Chesterford Research Park, 09/2010.
  • Invited Speaker at Inaugural Age UK 'Research for Later Life' Meeting, Nottingham 09/2010.
  • Invited Speaker 'Structure-based drug Design' meeting, San Diego, 06/2010.
  • Invited Speaker 'Protein-protein Interaction meeting', Boston, 04/2010.
  • Invited Seminar, University of Hull, 04/2008.
  • Invited Seminar, Novartis, Horsham Research Centre, 05/2007
  • Invited Seminar, Southampton University, 02/2007.
  • Invited Seminar, Queen Mary University London, 01/2007.
  • Invited Seminar, Leeds University Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology, 05/2006.
  • Invited Seminar, Roche, Basel, 09/2005.
  • Invited Seminar, UMASS, Amherst Massachusetts, 03/2001

Conference Presentations

  • Chemistry and Biology of Peptides, Gordon research conference, Ventura California, 02/2014
  • EPSRC Chemical Biology and Biological Chemistry Theme Day, London, 12/2013
  • Alzheimer's Research UK Annual Network Conference, Birmingham, 03/2012.
  • Research into Ageing Annual Meeting, Nottingham 09/2011.
  • Protein Society Meeting, Boston, 07/2011.
  • Alzheimer's Research UK Annual Network Conference, Leeds, 03/2011.
  • Protein Society Meeting 'Models of Dementia', Cambridge, 12/2010.
  • Cancer Research UK Senior Fellows Meeting, manchester, 09/2010.
  • Alzheimer's Research UK Annual Network Conference, Southampton, 03/2010.
  • Protein Society Meeting 'Protein-protein Interactions' Sheffield, 01/2010.
  • Alzheimer's Research UK Annual Network Conference, London, 03/2009.
  • Protein Society Meeting, San Diego, 07/2008.
  • Beatson Workshop: Tumor Invasion and Metastasis, Glasgow, 05/2006
  • Protein Society Meeting, Barcelona, 04/2005.
  • International Conference on Protein Sorting, Freiburg, 03/2005.
  • 6th International Alzheimer's Disease / Parkinson's Disease Conference, Seville, 05/2003
  • Protein Society Meeting: 'Amyloidogenic Proteins in Neurodegeneration: Therapeutic Implications'. Heriot Watt, Edinburgh, 04/2002.
  • Johns Hopkins Protein Folding Meeting, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, 03/2000.
  • EMBO Meeting 'Folding and Misfolding Inside and Outside the Cell' Oxford, 05/1998.

Additional information

Editorial Board Memberships:

Committee Membership:

Funding:

  • Oct 2012. BBSRC Industrial CASE Studentship (with Isogenica), £102,173
  • June 2012. Wellcome Trust People Award (With Gareth Bushell of www.fayju.com), £30,000
  • Aug 2011 Eppendorf Young Investigator Award (Runner up), £1000
  • June 2011. Royal Society Research Grant (with N Kad), £14,786
  • Oct 2010. Parkinson's UK PhD Studentship (with N Kad), £100,088
  • Sept 2010. Cancer Research UK Career Establishment Award, £388,100
  • May 2010. Wellcome Trust Project Grant, £218,000
  • Jan 2010. Research into Ageing New Investigator Award, £43,552
  • Sept 2008. Alzheimer’s Research Trust Pilot Project, £27,462
  • March 2008. Royal Society Research Grant, £12,508
  • March 2008. Essex University Departmental Research Fund, £1,938
  • Nov 2007. Royal Society Conference Grant, £1,220
  • Oct 2007. University of Essex Departmental Research Fund, £2,627
  • Sept 2007. New Lecturer Start-up Fund, University of Essex, £10,000

Information for Applicants:

We support applications for external or personal postdoctoral fellowships (e.g. EMBO, HFSP, Marie Curie or government funded) as well as applications from students intending to self-fund their PhD. Please contact Jody Mason for informal discussions.

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