In 2015 the LBMSDG connected with the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Separation Science Group and we were pleased to announce that the best student talk in 2017 also carried a £400 prize! 

The 2017 LBMSDG Best Student Speaker Prize sponsored by The Royal Society of Chemistry’s Separation Science Group was awarded to Ms Zainab Ahdash of Kings College London for her talk ‘Dissecting the mechanism of the HerA-NurA DNA break resection complex using native mass spectrometry’ presented at our September 2017 meeting.

The talk covered some of the work Zainab has been doing during her PhD project to understand the assembly mechanism of the HerA-NurA helicase-nuclease DNA end resection complex using native mass spectrometry. The main points covered in the presentation were based on her most exciting findings. She explained how native mass spectrometry was combined with electron microscopy, molecular dynamics simulations and biochemical analyses to understanding the mechanism of HerA oligomer formation and nucleotide binding to HerA-NurA. For the first time she showed that the ATP-free HerA and HerA-DNA complexes predominantly exist in solution as a heptamer, and acts as a DNA loading intermediate. She described how she studied the role of ATP in DNA translocation and processing through measuring nucleotide interaction with the HerA-NurA complex. The presentation was concluded with a proposed stepwise assembly mechanism which detailed the synergistic activation of HerA-NurA by ATP, which allows efficient processing of double-stranded DNA. Her findings may serve as a model for DNA end resection in eukaryotes. Zainab found the questions following the talk and the discussions after the meeting very useful in helping her to think about and plan the next stages of her research.

The Committee agreed that Zainab should be given the prize as her presentation was interesting, delivered very clearly and showed the power of combining a specialised mass spectrometry  technique with other methods to understand the structure and biology of an important protein complex. She engaged the audience and was able to answer the questions well.


Zainab can be seen collected her prize from LBMSDG chairman John Timms here