... understanding life in molecular detail

Dr Glyn Hemsworth

Structural Biology; Enzymes; Glycobiology; Biotechnology.

I use an interdisciplinary approach to study protein structure and function using X-ray crystallography coupled with biophysical and biochemical methods. The overarching aim of my work is to develop novel proteins that can be used for industrial biotechnology; one of the most promising approaches to reducing pollution, conserving resources and reducing the costs incurred during the manufacture of many of the chemical precursors and fuels upon which we rely. 

Current major projects include:
  • Discovery of enzymes involved in polysaccharide degradation
  • Structure and function of bacterial redox proteins

My lab has a broad interest in relating protein structure to function using a combination of complementary techniques. The current focus of our research is on the identification and characterisation of novel enzymes for use in biotechnological applications.

Industrial biotechnology is one of the most promising approaches to reducing pollution, conserving resources and reducing the costs incurred during the manufacture of many of the chemical precursors and fuels upon which we rely. This approach aims to utilize enzymes or microorganisms to generate new bio-based products from renewable raw materials. A major challenge for research in this context is to unlock the sugars contained in plant cell walls in the form of lignocellulose. One of the biggest obstacles to the successful implementation of industrial scale bioethanol production from lignocellulose is the highly recalcitrant nature of biomass to enzymatic breakdown. This has spurred a surge in interest in the natural enzymes produced by microorganisms for the degradation of biomass and has resulted in the discovery of lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases (LPMOs). These copper dependent enzymes are now viewed as key players in biomass breakdown, and use a novel oxidative mechanism to induce chain breaks in polysaccharide chains. Following the discovery of LPMOs there is now a worldwide drive to ensure that these enzymes are used effectively for industrial application. One of the key aspects of how these enzymes function, that is incompletely understood, is how electrons are transported to the enzymes to support their activity. Gaining a thorough understanding of LPMO activation mechanisms will be key to optimizing the efficiency of enzymatic lignocellulose deconstruction and maximizing the lifetime of the reaction mixtures used in industry.

Research in my lab is currently focussed on the characterisation of a range of proteins that could conceivably activate LPMOs from bacteria. With our collaborators, we are seeking to combine bioinformatics, X-ray crystallography, electron cryomicroscopy (cryo-EM), biophysical methods, biochemical assays, electrochemistry, spectroscopic characterisation and ultimately enzyme engineering to both understand and exploit electron transporting proteins for industrial purposes. We also have broader interests in the wider areas of glycobiology, enzyme engineering and metalloenzymology

Detailed research programme                  Close ▲

BBSRC David Phillips Fellow and University Academic Fellow

2015 Biochemical Society Early Career Research Award in Biotechnology

Postdoctoral Research Associate (University of York) 2009-2016

Astbury 10.107
School of Molecular and Cellular Biology
0113 3434 349

Selected Publications

  1. Hemsworth, G. R.*, Thompson, A. J.*, Stepper, J., Sobala, ?. F., Coyle, T., Larsbrink, J., Spadiut, O., Goddard-Borger, E.D., Stubbs, K.A., Brumer, H., Davies, G.J. (2016). Structural dissection of a complex Bacteroides ovatus gene locus conferring xyloglucan metabolism in the human gut. Open Biology, 6(7), 160142. doi.org/10.1098/rsob.160142

  2. Frandsen, K.E.H, Simmons, T.J., Dupree, P., Poulsen, J-C.N., Hemsworth, G.R., Ciano, L., Johnston, E.M., Tovborg, M., Johansen, K.S., von Freiesleben, P., Marmuse, L., Fort, S., Cottaz, S., Driguez, H., Henrissat, B., Lenfant, N., Tuna, F., Baldansuren, A., Davies, G.J., Lo Leggio, L., and Walton, P.H., (2016). The molecular basis of polysaccharide cleavage by lytic polysaccharide monooxygenases. Nature Chemical Biology, 12(4), 298–303. doi:10.1038/nchembio.2029

  3. Hemsworth, G.R., Henrissat, B., Davies, G.J., Walton, P.H. (2014). Discovery and characterization of a new family of lytic polysaccharide mono-oxygenases. Nature Chemical Biology, 10(2), 122–126. doi:10.1038/nchembio.1417

  4. Larsbrink, J., Rogers, T.E., Hemsworth, G.R., McKee, L.S., Tauzin, A.S., Spadiut, O., Klinter, S., Pudlo, N.A., Urs, K., Koropatkin, N.M., Creagh, A.L., Haynes, C.A., Kelly, A.G., Cederholm, S.N., Davies, G.J., Martens, E.C., and Brumer, H. (2014). A discrete genetic locus confers xyloglucan metabolism in select human gut Bacteroidetes. Nature, 506 (7489), 498–502. doi:10.1038/nature12907