Anton Calabrese

THE 2021 BOOMERANG AWARD: ANTON CALABRESE

School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and

Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology

University of Leeds, United Kingdom

Anton completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Adelaide in 2008, where he also studied for a PhD with Professor John Bowie and Associate Professor Tara Pukala. It was during his postgraduate studies that Anton developed a passion for structural mass spectrometry (MS), realising the power of this technology in integrative structural biology. His PhD work focused on developing new structural MS tools (including new crosslinking-MS approaches) and applying structural MS to interrogate biological mechanisms (for example, antimicrobial peptide self-assembly). Anton’s PhD studies contributed to 13 research articles.

After completing his PhD in 2013, Anton joined the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, taking up a postdoctoral researcher position in the laboratories of Professors Alison Ashcroft, Sheena Radford and Peter Henderson. During his postdoctoral studies, he developed MS methods to study the architecture/interactions of membrane proteins by native-MS/covalent labelling, and established the first European platform for fast photochemical labelling of proteins (FPOP)-MS. Inspired by challenges in understanding the structure, function and dynamics of membrane proteins, Anton was a co-applicant on a successful Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council grant to study the folding pathway of outer membrane proteins (OMPs) from Gram-negative bacteria, combining structural-MS, cryo-EM, FRET and biochemical/computational data. This work has resulted in new insights into the functional mechanisms of the periplasmic chaperones Skp and SurA (published in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology in 2016, Angewandte Chemie in 2018 and Nature Communications in 2020) and the architecture of the essential BAM complex (Nature Communications, 2016). These studies have provided important new insights into the journey of unfolded OMPs through the periplasm and are inspiring new avenues by which this essential pathway could be targeted to develop antibiotics.

In 2020, Anton was awarded a University Academic Fellowship in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds to establish an independent research group. He was also awarded a prestigious Sir Henry Dale Fellowship, jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society. His independent research is focused on deploying structural MS methods (including in-cell structural MS), along with other biophysical, biochemical and cellular tools, to study biomolecular condensates involved in viral replication, and the molecular events underlying aberrant phase transitions associated with neurodegenerative disease.

Anton is convinced that structural MS technologies will play an increasingly important role in interdisciplinary research going forward, and is excited to see what future developments will enable. He thanks the ASBMB for this exciting opportunity to present his work at an upcoming ASBMB meeting and to visit laboratories in Australia, including in Canberra and Adelaide.