Oliver Bayfield is a doctoral student as part of the NIH-Wellcome Trust studentship program, enrolled at the University of York (UK). In January 2015, he joined the Laboratory of Structural Biology Research as a visiting fellow to research the mechanism by which two related protein nanocompartments package their cargos. The encapsulin from Myxococcus xanthus sequesters iron from the cytoplasm of bacteria and deposits it in mineral form in its core, in an analogous manner to ferritin but with approximately 10-fold higher capacity for iron. Encapsulins therefore serve as protein organelles. Mr. Bayfield studies the ferritin-like cargo proteins, which anchor to the inner surface of the icosahedral protein shell, where they likely trap iron by ferroxidase activity.
In a parallel investigation, Mr. Bayfield seeks to understand how viral genomic DNA is packaged into icosahedral capsids by an ATPase packaging motor during viral replication, and how ATP hydrolysis is coupled to mechanical force. In these studies, he utilizes transmission electron microscopy and protein X-ray crystallography to determine protein structure, and infer mechanistic details from this structural data.