KAVLI INsD Director's latest Nature publication could offer a new approach to drug discovery

KINsD Director, Professor Dame Carol Robinson published a study in Nature, this week entitled “Capturing a rhodopsin receptor signalling cascade across a native membrane". Professor Robinson's research was conducted at Oxford University's Kavli Institute for Nanoscience Discovery using mass spectrometry to probe the archetype class A GPCR, rhodopsin, directly in fragments of its native disc membranes.

Professor Robinson and Siyun Chen monitored real-time photoconversion of dark-adapted rhodopsin to opsin, delineating the stepwise isomerization of retinal and hydrolysis of the retinal-opsin adduct. They also discovered that the reaction is significantly slower in its natural membrane environment than in artificial detergent micelles. 

To do this the Robinson Group moved a mass spectrometer into a dark room, operated under red light conditions and then applied flashes of light to initiate the signalling cascade that we monitored in real-time.

“I am delighted that we got this to work and very grateful to Siyun Chen, the first author who had to overcome many technical challenges. This really could offer a new way to look at the effects of drugs in their native membrane environments”, says Carol Robinson, who led the research in Oxford Kavli labs.

Since April 2021, Oxford University's KAVLI Institute for Nanoscience Discovery is proudly serving as a hub for research groups from seven different departments spanning both the medical and physical sciences, including Professor Dame Carol Robinson's Group from the Department of Chemistry.

Research image showing cell membranes

Image Credit: Beth Anderson - Arkitek Scientific