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Oleg Sitsel awarded first prize in Estonian student research competition

Oleg Sitsel, former PhD student in Poul Nissen's research group, has been awarded first prize by the Estonian Research Council's national student research competition for his PhD research into determining the structure and function of heavy metal ATPases.

During his PhD studies, Oleg Sitsel has worked on proteins called P1B-ATPases which transport heavy metals across cell membranes, the barriers which separate cells and intracellular compartments from their immediate environment. P1B-ATPases are important for correct regulation of cellular levels of metals such as copper and zinc, which are crucial for the well-being of all cells and are an indispensable part of many proteins. At the same time, an excess or deficiency of these elements can be lethal, as can be seen in the case of the human Menkes and Wilson diseases caused by malfunction of copper transporting P1B-ATPases.

Oleg Sitsel has studied copper and zinc transporting P1B-ATPases using a broad array of biochemical and biophysical techniques such as X-ray crystallography in order to obtain insight on how these proteins work at an atomic level. The research he conducted resulted in the discovery of an ion release pathway unique to copper transporting P1B-ATPases, as well as the first ever structures of a zinc transporting P1B-ATPase. These major breakthroughs in the field give hope for using these proteins in a range of new applications, from developing new antibiotics to creating heavy metal extracting plants.

Read more about Estonian Research Council's national student research competition here: