News - What's happening in our lab?

May 2018

Angel Zhang graduated with her MSc in 2018, even as papers involving her work continued to be published!


Gordon Irvine and Tyler Pinter, after completing their PhDs, moved on to NSERC-funded PDFs in the USA.

Judith Scheller, Lina Heinlein and Dorothee Ott all completed their graduate degrees and returned to Germany. Our papers with each are wonderful additions to our group knowledge.


July 2017

Recap: Martin and Angel return to the lab.  Lina and Martin rush to finish their paper on Cu, Zn-MT.  Gordon joins Judith in the review of copper binding. Devika prepares for her MSc defence later this month. Daisy, Angel, and Dorothee prepare their presentations for the Metallomics Conference to be held in Vienna in August. Lina leaves (See photo on left of our last lunch together) - but not for too long as we will all meet up again in Vienna.

We were delighted to see that research first started in 2011 has been accepted in Protein Science.

Thanks go to Takahide Yamaguchi in the group of Taka Kohzuma, at Ibaraki University, Mito, Japan. We first came to discuss collaboration at CanBIC 2 in 2009 when Taka brought several students including Yuko Nihei. Duncan Sutherland teamed up with her and we began our UWO journey into blue copper proteins. The work continues following the tsunami and explosion at the Fukoshima power plant - located close by, and worse, upwind from Taka's lab (March 2011). He brought new students to CanBIC-3 in May 2011 who stayed to work in our lab. Takahide and Aki Takashima stayed with us.

Aki's paper on the strange intermediate field of the d5 ferric heme in cytochrome c was published a couple of months ago with Mike Tiedemann as the guide for MCD and ESI-MS measurements that were critical to our analysis:

Takashina, A.; Tiedemann, M.T.; Unno, M; Yamaguchi, T; Stillman, M.J.; Kohzuma, T (2017) "The pH dependent Protein Structure Transitions and Related Spin State Transition of Cytochrome c' from Alcaligenes xylosoxidans NCIMB 11015". Bull. Chemical Society of Japan, 90, #2, 169-177. DOI: 10.1246/bcsj.20160316

Now Takahide has shepherded the blue copper work through Protein Science:

Yamaguchi, T.; Nihei, Y.; Sutherland, D.; Stillman, M.; Kohzuma, T.(2017) "Stabilization of protein structure through p-p interaction at the second coordination sphere of pseudoazurin".

June 2017

June was busy.

First, Convocation. Gordon received his PhD and Debbie received her BSc. Debbie also won Chemistry's Patel Prize for top research potential based on her 4th year research project grade. Then Devika finished her MSc thesis and submitted it for a defense in July. Early in June, Gordon and Dorothee were invited to Agriculture Canada's Research Institute in North East London to use their ultrahigh resolution Orbi Trap ESI-mass spectrometer (our hosts were Dr. Justine Renaud and Dr. Mark Sumarah). Lina worked more on the copper binding problem using a combination of the 600 nm emission and ESI-mass spectral data. To try and solve the problem, she also went with Gordon to the OrbiTrap instrument at Agriculture Canada's wonderful facility. Gordon continued his work using MS-MS to understand the cysteine modification sequence first worrying us in 2010 with Mike Drydon's summer work (with Thanh Ngu - see the publications link).

At the end of June, Martin flew to Cape Town to give seminars at the Universities of Western Cape and Cape Town. He then gave a talk and two posters at the Inorganic 2017 conference of the South African Chemistry Institute in Hermanus, Western Cape showcasing our recent work with synthetic porphyrins (Angel), copper binding to metallothionein (Judith, Gordon and Daisy) and nano particles made using seaweeds (Martin and Edith Antune's group at Cape Western University).

Zhang, QW, Yamamoto, S, Kwan, L, Kobayashi, N, Kimura, M, Stillman, MJ. "Design of porphyrin dyes using computational and spectroscopic methods for dye-sensitized solar cells" (poster).
Stillman, M.J. "Metallation pathways for the multi-metal binding protein metallothionein: Solving very complicated binding affinity problems using ESI mass spectrometry."(talk)
De Bruin F, Bolton, JJ, Stillman MJ, Beukes D, Antunes E "Carbon-carbon coupling reactions catalysed by palladium nanoparticles supported on the green alga Ulva armoricana" (poster)

Our papers for the last 6 months

Yamaguchi, T.; Nihei, Y.; Sutherland, D.; Stillman, M.; Kohzuma, T.(2017) "Stabilization of protein structure through p-p interaction at the second coordination sphere of pseudoazurin", Protein Science, in press.

Scheller, J.S.; Irvine, G.W.; Wong, D.L.; Hartwig, A.; Stillman, M.J.(2017) "Stepwise copper(I) binding to metallothionein: A mixed cooperative and non-cooperative mechanism for all 20 copper ions" Metallomics, 9, 447-462 DOI: 10.1039/C7MT00041C. (Showcased on the front cover)

Wong, D.L.; Zhang, A.; Faponle, A.S.; de Visser, S.P.; Stillman, M.J.(2017) "Glutathione binding to dirhodium tetraacetate: a spectroscopic, mass spectral and computational study of an anti-tumour compound" Metallomics, 9, 501-516 DOI: 10.1039/C7MT00040E.

Irvine, G.W.; Stillman, M. J.; "Residue Modification and Mass Spectrometry for the Investigation of Structural and Metalation Properties of Metallothionein and Cysteine-Rich Proteins." Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2017, 18(5), 913; doi:10.3390/ijms18050913

Irvine, G.W.; Tan, S.N.; Stillman, M.J.(2017) "A Simple Metallothionein-Based Biosensor for Enhanced Detection of Arsenic and Mercury." Biosensors, 7, 14, pp1-11. DOI:10.3390/bios7010014

Irvine, G.W.; Santolini, M.; Stillman, M.J. (2017) "Selective cysteine modification of metal-free human metallothionein 1a and its isolated domain fragments: solution structural properties revealed via ESI-MS." Protein Science 26 (5), 960-971. DOI: 10.1002/pro.3139.

Takashina, A.; Tiedemann, M.T.; Unno, M; Yamaguchi, T; Stillman, M.J.; Kohzuma, T (2017) "The pH dependent Protein Structure Transitions and Related Spin State Transition of Cytochrome c' from Alcaligenes xylosoxidans NCIMB 11015". Bull. Chemical Society of Japan, 90, #2, 169-177. DOI: 10.1246/bcsj.20160316.

D. L. Wong, M. Merrifield-MacRae, M. J. Stillman, , "Lead(II) Binding in Metallothioneins" in "Lead: Its Effects on Environment and Health", Vol. 17 of Metal Ions in Life Sciences, Eds A. Sigel, H. Sigel, R. K. O. Sigel, Walter de Gruyter, GmbH, Berlin, Germany, 2017; vol 17, Pages 241- 269.


May 2017

CanBIC-6 starts on the 22nd - 150 participants and a very well attended student symposium with 18 short talks. We welcomed Lina back to help us and then continue her work on copper binding to Zn-MT. As will be seen in the paper, the difficulty is the close similarities in the masses of the zinc (there are 7) - and the copper (there will be 20).  Meanwhile, Deborah goes on an Asian tour to celebrate her degree successes.

As always, there is always a terrific sunset during the Banquet!


As CanBIC takes place, Katie and Miaomiao play string music, the boat cruises, and at the end, Martin is convinced by many to run CanBIC-7 in May 2019. Daisy will be finishing that summer, so who else will be here is a big question, but we'll somehow manage.

CanBIC succeeds because of the group efforts. Our group members (see  photo on left of Angel, Gordon, Lina, Daisy, Martin and Dorothee) worked to make CanBIC run like clockwork with members of Zhifeng Ding's group.

Martin travelled to Toronto to give a talk in the Bioinorganic symposium of the 2017 CSC Conference organized by Deborah Zamble and Bernie Kraatz, both at U of T(see the Research Talks link).

April 2017

Term comes to an end and Deborah presented her project at the annual 4th research conference in York University in March, winning a prize for her presentation on the electronic structures of fluorinated phthalocyanines, then again on the 4th year research reporting day for Chemistry. Meanwhile, preparations for CanBIC-6 continued.


February 2017

We welcome Dorothee Ott from Andrea Hartwig's group at KIT to work on iron binding to transferrin.

Martin travels to Ueda in Japan to work with Nagao Kobayashi (on the right in the photo) and Mutsumi Kimura's group on porphyrins for solar cells (Angel Zhang's project at UWO).

January 2017

With the end of 2016, Devika made our first bone fide MT2A isoform and moved to determine its zinc binding characteristics. Judith Scheller returned to Karlsruhe with the copper metallothionein paper completed and submitted to Metallomics. This paper built on the work of Duncan, Tyler and Gordon in allowing the 20 binding constants for the 20 copper ions to be determined relatively using the published average K for Cu(I) binding. The paper was eventually published in May with the front cover of the Metallomics issue celebrating Judith's work. This study was a collaboration between our group and that of Prof. Andrea Hartwig at KIT with the assistance of Gordon and Daisy.

At the same time, Daisy's paper describing the reaction of glutathione with the Rh2(acetate)4. Daisy's detailed spectral data (eg. mass spectra, CD spectra, and UV-visible spectra) showed that the Rh-Rh bond remained intact. Her work provided further insight into the electronic structure of the RhRh complexes when coordinated by glutathione. In collaboration with Sam DeVisser in Manchester, Angel calculated the thoretical spectra of the complexes made and showed the origins of the absorption spectra in beautiful detail. For the first time, the effect of axial coordination of the Rh-Rh single bond was shown. This work was published also in the May issue of Metallomics. Daisy, Angel, Devika and Lina all contributed posters in the Showcase of Interdisciplinary Research workshop at UWO.