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Department of Biochemistry


Nikolas Capra


I did my bachelor studies in Molecular Biology at the University of Pisa and my master in Functional Genomics at the University of Trieste. During the master I have joined the Erasmus+ Exchange Programme at the Uppsala University (Sweden) for 7 months, 5 of which spent in the lab of prof. Inger Andersson where I carried out a  project in structural biology on the ThnM enzyme, which is involved in the antibiotic thienamycin synthesis pathway.
My master thesis was focused on the structural studies of an Archaeal exonuclease homolog of the human Cdc45 and was carried out in the Structural Biology Lab under the supervision of Dr Silvia Onesti at the synchrotron Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste S.C.p.A. The aim of the project was to express, purify, crystallise the protein bound to a DNA substrate and solve its structure.

Training and Transferable Skills:

  • XRD and SAXS basics
  • Crystallographic techniques
  • High throughput systems for crystallography (Mosquito system, Hydra)
  • Protein expression and purification (FPLC systems and chromatographic techniques)
  • DNA extraction and purification, PCR amplification
  • Bacterial cultures and yeast cultures

Research Projects:
My work in the PhD project is to evaluate and validate, by using a crystallographic approach, the quality of mutations design protocols obtained by two computational methods: FRESCO (used to improve thermo- and (co)solvent-stability) and CASCO (exploited for improvement of the substrate selectivity). The structures of the re-engineered mutant variants are then used to interpret the effect of mutations and to improve the computational tools, with a focus on mutants with redesigned selectivity.