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Professor Colin Berry

Professor Colin Berry

Professor

School of Biosciences

Email
berry@cardiff.ac.uk
Telephone
+44 (0)29 2087 4508
Fax:
+44 (0)29 2087 4305
Campuses
Sir Martin Evans Building, Museum Avenue, Cardiff, CF10 3AX
Comment
Media commentator
Users
Available for postgraduate supervision

Overview

Research overview

Work in Prof Berry's laboratory is centred around two themes:

  • Studies of insecticidal bacteria that can be used in the biological control of agricultural pests and insect vectors of disease
  • Investigations of potential new drug targets in parasites

Biography

  • BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, University of Southampton, 1984.
  • PhD Biochemistry, University of Bristol, 1988.
  • Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, National University of Singapore, 1988-1992.
  • E. Alan Johnston Royal Society Research Fellow, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, 1992-2002.
  • Lecturer in Biochemistry, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, 2000-2003.
  • Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, 2003-2009.
  • Visiting Professor, Agronomy and Veterinary Faculty, University of Brasilia, Brazil, 2008.
  • DSc, University of Bristol, 2008.
  • Reader, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, 2009-2019.
  • Professor, Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, 2019-present.

Committees and reviewing

* Editorial Board:  Journal of Invertebrate Pathology

Publications

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1987

The Insecticidal proteins of Lysinibacillus sphaericus and Bacillus thuringiensis

Some strains of the bacterium Lysinibacillus sphaericus produce a variety of proteins that act specifically against mosquito larvae with few effects on non-target organisms and no harmful effects on humans. This makes it a useful agent for the biological control of mosquito populations which may constitute major pests and vectors of a range of extremely serious human diseases (including malaria, elephantiasis, zika, yellow fever and dengue fever). Research in Prof Berry's group includes investigations of toxin mode of action, new toxin discovery, regulation of toxin gene expression and strain improvement for enhanced biological control. 

In order to study the genetics of the insecticidal toxins of Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis, a collaboration with the Sanger Centre was established, which led to the elucidation of the complete sequence of the entire virulence megaplasmid (approx. 128kb) that encodes the toxins (and helper proteins) in this bacterium. The Berry group was also involved in the first sequencing of a genome of Lysinibacillus sphaericus.  More recently, Prof Berry has been involved in mining whole genomes for novel invertebrate-active proteins.

Bacillus thuringiensis toxins are active against a range of invertebrates and belong to a number of distinct structural classes.  Prof Berry has been involved in the recent reclassification of bacterial, invertebrate-active proteins and in setting up the Bacterial Pesticidal Proteins Resource Centre (bpprc.org).  Ongoing work includes the elucidation of the 3-dimensional structures of a number of insecticidal proteins and studies to understand their specificity and mechanism of action.

Parasite Aspartic Proteinases

Aspartic proteinases perform critical functions in many parasites that cause serious human or livestock diseases and are thus excellent targets for the design of novel anti-parasitic drugs. Such functions include roles in invasion of the host or as part of the parasite's digestive system. Prof Berry's group is studying these enzymes from a range of protozoan and helminthic parasites as targets for inhibitor design. The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum may produce up to ten aspartic proteinases (the plasmepsins). Some of these plasmepsins are involved in parasite digestion of host red cell haemoglobin and inhibition of these enzymes can lead to parasite death. Prof Berry's group has cloned and expressed plasmepsins I and II in recombinant form and has completed their full kinetic characterisation with a series of synthetic substrates and a number of inhibitors. With industrial collaborators, a compound which kills parasites in red blood cells in culture and shows selective inhibition of plasmepsin I has been identified. The results of these studies will facilitate the design of new inhibitory compounds as potential anti-malarial drugs.  More recent work has identified a potential drug target in Leishmania parasites that may be targeted by HIV proteinase inhibitors or related compounds.

Grant funding

Prof Berry's work has received funding from a variety of sources including The Royal Society, the UK research councils, the Welsh Development Agency, the World Health Organisation, KESS, the Leverhulme Trust, the Wellcome Trust, the British Council, the Welsh Assembly Government, the Cardiff Partnership Fund, Camtech & various industrial sponsors.

Current collaborators

  • Prof Primitivo Caballero, Universidad Publica de Navarra, Spain
  • Dr Neil Crickmore, University of Sussex, UK
  • Prof Bryony Bonning, University of Florida, USA
  • Dr John Ssebaale, Makerere University, Uganda

Supervision

* Structure and function of insecticidal proteins