Discovery and characterisation of potential therapeutics from sea anemones

Voltage-gated potassium channel inhibitors from sea anemones have high value as potential therapeutics for a wide range of autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, arthritis and psoriasis. More broadly, sea anemone venoms are a natural source of ion channel modulators, but much of the structural and functional diversity of these venoms remains unexplored. We have recently used transcriptome sequencing and proteomics to identify and validate the presence of putative ion channel blockers in the endemic Australian anemone Oulactis sp., and efforts are currently underway to describe their chemical diversity. This project will evaluate the structural and functional diversity of bioactive peptides found in the proteomes of Oulactis sp and other species of Australian anemones.

The student will gain experience in
1) synthetic and/or recombinant techniques for the production of these peptides;
2)  high-resolution structural determination by NMR spectroscopy, and
3) functional characterization in a variety of pharmacological and cellular assays together with local collaborators.

Toxins described at the functional level will shed light on the biological role of these molecules in sea anemones and potentially expand the scope of therapeutic candidates from Australian sea anemones.