... understanding life in molecular detail

Dr Christos Pliotas

Mechanosensation; PELDOR/DEER spectroscopy; Ion channels; EPR


We study mechanosensitive ion channels in order to understand the fundamental biophysical property of mechanosensation, a universal mechanism for ion channel regulation. 

Site directed spin labeling and pulsed-EPR (PELDOR or DEER) spectroscopy

Spin labels, such as nitroxides (e.g. MTSSL) are introduced and react with cysteines. Multimeric proteins carry more than one spin label per macromolecule and PELDOR (or DEER) spectroscopy is facilitated to measure interspin distances and provide high quality structural information. Conformational and oligomeric states of ion channels in native/lipid environment could be thus accurately determined.

Current major projects include:
  • Allosteric activation of mechanosensitive channels
  • Functional multimodality in mechanosensitive channels
  • PELDOR/DEER distance measurements on membrane proteins
  • Novel nanomachines inspired by mechanosensation and PELDOR

The research of my group is focused on elucidating mechanical sensing and regulation mechanisms of ion channels.

Mechanosensation is the ability of channels to sense and respond to changes in membrane tension by opening their pore, through which ions and/or molecules flow.

The main method we employ in order to investigate oligomerisation and conformation of mechanosensitive ion channels in native-like lipid environment is Pulsed ELectron-ELectron DOuble Resonance (PELDOR) spectroscopy, (also known as DEER), which allows the measurements of interspin distances within protein complexes with subÅ accuracy. Dynamic structural information provided by PELDOR is complemented by Cryo Electron Microscopy (CryoEM) and single molecule electrophysiology to gain further isights into channel structure and function respectively.

Detailed research programme                  Close ▲

Lecturer in Integrative Membrane Biology

Royal Society of Edinburgh Fellowship Award

MSc in Medical Physics (University of Aberdeen) 2006-2007
PhD (IMS, University of Aberdeen) 2007-2011
Postdoctoral Reseacrher (Chemistry, St Andrews) 2011-2015
Royal Society of Edinburgh Research Fellow (St Andrews) 2016-18

Garstang 6.41b
School of Biomedical Sciences
0113 3431229


Selected Publications

  1. Pliotas, C., Ion Channel Conformation and Oligomerization Assessment by Site-Directed Spin Labeling and Pulsed-EPR. Methods Enzymol 2017, 594, 203-242.

  2. Pliotas et al., The role of lipids in mechanosensation. Nat Struct Mol Biol 2015, 22 (12), 991-8

  3. Pliotas et al., Conformational state of the MscS mechanosensitive channel in solution revealed by pulsed electron-electron double resonance (PELDOR) spectroscopy. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012, 109 (40), E2675-82