Tomas Malinauskas

Graduate Research Prize Winners 2012

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I completed my Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry at Vilnius University (Faculty of Chemistry) (Lithuania) in 2007. During my undergraduate education, I took advantage of several opportunities to get involved in scientific research.

In 2005, I was awarded a European Union Socrates-Erasmus Scholarship. I joined the group of Dr. Roman Tuma at the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Virus Research to study the viral RNA packaging motor protein P4 at a single molecule level. I was awarded a Summer Fellowship from the Federation of European Biochemical Societies to continue these studies during the summer, 2006. I assembled and used a single molecule assay to measure translocation of RNA packaging motor P4 along RNA. These investigations formed the basis of my bachelor thesis and strengthened my determination to use biophysical methods to solve fascinating, fundamental and biomedically-important problems during my doctoral studies.

I was awarded a Cancer Research UK four-year fellowship and started my doctoral studies at the University of Oxford under the supervision of Prof. Edith Yvonne Jones in October, 2007. I investigated the molecular mechanisms of the Wnt signalling pathway (a pathway orchestrating the development of multicellular organisms) antagonism by Wnt inhibitory factor 1 (WIF-1) and secreted Frizzled-related protein 1. I integrated structural studies with site-directed mutagenesis, surface plasmon resonance- and cell-based assays to provide novel insights into the regulation of Wnt signalling by WIF-1 and heparan sulfate proteoglycans. The results were presented at several conferences and published in the journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology (Malinauskas et al., 2011). The biophysical protocols to investigate protein-glycosaminoglycan interactions (such as WIF-1–heparan sulfate) from these studies were successfully applied to study Hedgehog morphogen–glycosaminoglycan interactions in Dr. Christian Siebold’s group (Oxford).

I have enjoyed communicating our discoveries to a wide public and promoting science. I volunteered at the Cancer Research UK's "Race for Life" events in 2011 and 2012. I served as a publicity secretary at the Oxford University Scientific Society, and helped to organise public talks by scientists to non-specialists.

Following my doctorate, I continue working with Prof. E. Yvonne Jones on the multiprotein, cell surface signaling complexes involved in human brain wiring. We have established collaboration with Dr. Zameel Cader's group (Oxford) to test the molecular mechanisms of neuron guidance in dorsal root ganglia (Janssen, Malinauskas et al., 2012). I aim to combine this experience with my previous skills to solve fundamental biology problems for the benefit of human health.

I am very grateful to my colleagues (notably, Prof. E. Yvonne Jones, Dr. Christian Siebold, Dr. Radu Aricescu, and everybody at the Division of Structural Biology), friends, family and numerous organizations (Cancer Research UK, Jesus College at the University of Oxford, NDM, and others) for their generous support.

Publications:

  1. Janssen, B.J.C. *, Malinauskas, T. *, Weir, G.A., Cader, M.Z., Siebold, C., and Jones, E.Y. Neuropilins lock secreted semaphorins onto plexins in a ternary signalling complex. Accepted for publication in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, (2012). * These authors contributed equally to this work.
  2. Chen, S., Bubeck, D., MacDonald, B.T., Liang, W.X., Mao, J.H., Malinauskas, T., Llorca, O., Aricescu, A.R., Siebold, C., He, X., and Jones, E.Y. Structural and functional studies of LRP6 ectodomain reveal a platform for Wnt signaling. Developmental Cell, 21(5), 848–861 (2011).
  3. Malinauskas, T., Aricescu, A.R., Lu, W., Siebold, C., and Jones, E.Y. Modular mechanism of Wnt signaling inhibition by Wnt inhibitory factor 1. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 18 (8), 886–893 (2011).