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Professor Ian Collinson

Professor Ian Collinson

Professor Ian Collinson
BSc(Warw), PhD(Cantab)

Professor of Biochemistry

Area of research

Understanding the mechanism of protein secretion and mitochondrial import

Office Room M.4
Biomedical Sciences Building,
University Walk, Clifton BS8 1TD
(See a map)

+44 (0) 117 331 2131


The Collinson Lab explore the molecular mechanisms underlying protein translocation across biological membranes for the purposes of transport across (protein secretion and mitochondrial import) and into phospholipid bilayers (membrane protein insertion).

The group studies the ubiquitous Sec machinery using the tractable model organism E. coli by a comprehensive characterisation of function and structure. The structure of the core-SecY translocon responsible for secretion, both alone and in complex with a pre-protein mimic, has been determined in collaboration with Profs Tom Rapoport and Werner Kühlbrandt. Current efforts explore how the free energy available from ATP hydrolysis and the trans-membrane proton motive force (PMF) produce the drive responsible for protein passage into and across the membrane.

Recent developments have identified and produced the holo-translocon capable of both secretion and membrane insertion. New projects exploit the availability of this complex towards the understanding of the cellular mechanisms for membrane protein insertion by a wide ranging analysis of its structure and function (collaboration with recent School of Biochemistry, Bristol appointments: Profs Christiane Schaffitzel and Imre Berger).

A Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award has just been initiated in order to utilise the methods and expertise employed for the bacterial translocation system to the much more complex (and interesting!) process governing mitochondrial protein import, membrane protein insertion, folding and assembly. 


Ian Collinson's research interests lie in the structure, function and exploitation of large multimeric membrane protein complexes. He obtained his PhD in Cambridge with Sir John Walker studying the mitochondrial machinery responsible for ATP synthesis.  These interests were subsequently developed during international postdoctoral work at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biophysics (EMBO Fellowship with Prof Werner Kühlbrandt) and the Harvard Medical School (HFSP Fellowship with Prof Tom Rapoport) to the mechanisms cells deploy for the export of secretory proteins and the insertion of membrane proteins.

The Collinson lab has been established in Bristol since 2004, where research is focused on protein secretion and membrane protein insertion through the bacterial plasma membrane by the ubiquitous Sec-machinery (BBSRC funded). A brand new project will tackle the outstanding problem of mitochondrial protein import, membrane insertion and assembly.

Collinson has been an EMBO Young Investigator (2002), Colworth Medal winner (2005) and Leverhulme Research Fellow (2010). 

He is a Fellow of the Society of Biology (2014) and Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator (2014).


Ian Collinson teaches to 2nd and final years of the Biochemistry course and is the coordinator of the Year in Industry unit for students engaged in a work placement (academic, healthcare sector or industrial) for one year between their 2nd and final year.


  • Protein secretion and membrane protein insertion. The ubiquitous Sec-machinery. Mitochondrial protein import
  • folding and assembly.



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