Call for up to 3 postdoctoral fellowships – ISB Postdoctoral Program 2020

Up to 3 postdoctoral fellowships are open for the 2020 call at the Integrated Structural Biology (ISB) environment at Umeå University.  Umeå University offers a vibrant and international atmosphere for structural biology research. There are 19 research groups and close to 100 persons affiliated with ISB. The ISB environment has regular seminars and candidates will be broadly exposed to different structural biology techniques. The university has state of the art infrastructure for cryoEM, NMR spectroscopy, supercomputing and x-ray crystallography (please visit for details on research groups and equipment). 

The openings will be filled using a procedure adapted from EMBL and up to 3 top candidates that has applied to one of the 7 available projects will be selected. The projects are interdisciplinary and will ensure that the candidate will receive competitive training.

The program is open to all nationalities with relevant doctoral level education and work experiences and the openings will include the following to be considered by potential candidates: 

  • Two years funding (incl. running costs) for research within a multidisciplinary structural biology environment 
  • Access to ISB affiliated core facilities and technical platforms 
  • Integration with postdocs at ISB and also MIMS (Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden)  for carrier development and joint activities


Candidates should submit their:

  • CV
  • Publications
  • Certificates and diplomas
  • A Motivation Letter (max 2 A4 pages), specifying: i) why you are interested in performing postdoc research studies within ISB and ii) why in particular you wish to do this with the PI:s and project idea selected from our list. 
  • Reseach plan for the project (max 1 A4 page). We strongly encourage the applicants to contact the PIs for discussion of the project before submission. 

Please email your application to no later than April 13. For inquires please contact the indicated lead-PI or co-PI’s from the list of projects. Further info about the ISB Postdoctoral program can be found here:


Please find here below a list of the available projects together with contact information to PI’s.

Membrane interactions during apoptosis – a data-driven simulation approach

The grand challenge in low-resolution structural biology methodologies is the structural interpretation of the data. In recent years, data-driven computer simulation has emerged as a powerful tool with huge potential to extract detailed structural information from low- resolution data due to ever-increasing capabilities in parallel supercomputing and novel algorithms. The main aim of this postdoc project is to develop a data-driven simulation method to elucidate the mechanism behind the association of apoptotic Bax protein to mitochondrial-membrane interfaces and its subsequent partitioning; information essential for a molecular understanding of a key step in apoptosis, namely the cell-death causing membrane perforation. 

The work includes building of simulation systems to mimic the mitochondrial lipid composition under apoptotic oxidative stress conditions, hydration levels, and protein content, as used in the neutron reflectometry experiments. A computationally efficient way to generate in-simulation calculated scattering profiles will be developed to bias simulations towards a molecular-level structural solution; work to be supervised by Dr. Andersson. Importantly, the postdoc will be involved in sample preparation and all stages of the neutron scattering experiments, supervised by Dr. Gröbner (and preliminary data already at hand). The project will generate new insight into a key step in mitochondrial apoptosis and it will put forward a data-driven approach that goes beyond today’s state-of- the-art to model neutron reflectometry data; which will be required at the upcoming national ESS infrastructure with its innovative reflectometry capabilities. 

Lead PI: Magnus Andersson:

Co-PI: Gerhard Gröbner:

Structural studies of virus-host interactions by cryo-electron tomography on virus-infected human organoids

What questions molecular biologists can answer is highly dependent on the research methods and model systems at their disposal. In this project we aim to combine cutting-edge advances in both infection models and cryo-electron tomography to study human enteric viruses. The group of Niklas Arnberg has long experience in working with both enteroviruses and with enteric adenoviruses. The Arnberg group are currently establishing human gut organoids (“enteroids”) as a more realistic model system to study infection of the gut. On the structural biology side, a major limitation for structural analysis by cryo-EM is the sample size. The standard plunge-freezing methods used in cryo-EM can only vitrify samples to a thickness of ~1 μm. Leveraging on the extensive infrastructure at UCEM, the Carlson group have developed a high-pressure freezing-based method that would allow structural studies by cryo-electron tomography of virus-infected organoids. Combining these methods, the postdoc will be able to study host-cell remodelling by enteric viruses in situ in human organoids. This will allow visualisation of complex tissue-dependent processes, e.g. depending cell type and tissue polarity, with the unprecedented structural fidelity of cryo-electron tomography.

Lead PI: Lars-Anders Carlson:

Co-PI: Niklas Arnberg:

Mechanistic study of the autophagic protein ATG8/LC3 in membrane morphogenesis using NMR 

Autophagy is a highly conserved and sophisticated “self-eating” process in eukaryotes and plays a key role in human health and disease. Formation of double- membrane autophagosomes is the key process in autophagy. The LC3 protein family (mammalian homologs of yeast ATG8) conjugated to phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) is required for autophagosomal membrane expansion and closure. However, the molecular mechanisms of these processes remain unclear. We have earlier prepared LC3-PE proteins by semisynthetic approaches and showed that LC3-PE promotes membrane fusion in vitro. The aim of this project is to gain molecular insights into how ATG8/LC3-PE mediates membrane morphogenesis. To this end we will use structural biology tools, primarily NMR, to study ATG8/LC3-PE together with lipids. NMR can provide a wealth of information about not only protein structure, but also details about lipid properties in membrane bilayers. In this way we can simultaneously investigate the effect that lipids have on the properties ATG8/LC3-PE and the effect that the protein has on membrane morphology. The work will involve both protein chemistry, and advanced NMR spectroscopy to study both protein structure, and lipid properties. 

Lead PI: Lena Mäler:

Co-PI: Yaowen Wu:

Understanding assembly and function of the bacterial cell wall 

Bacteria are protected from environmental insults by a peptidoglycan (PG) cell wall. Hence, the enzymes involved in the production and turnover of PG are preferred targets for many of our most successful antibiotics. However, emerging resistant bacteria are threatening the very foundations of modern infection medicine by eroding the efficacy of our antibiotic arsenal. Identifying new genetic determinants of the bacterial cell wall as antibiotic targets, and characterizing them biochemically and structurally is of highest international priority but turns out to be a very difficult task. Our team has discovered a novel Penicillin Binding Protein conserved in a number of Gram-negative pathogens (e.g. Vibrionaceae, Pseudomonadaceae, Burkholderiaceae). Preliminary data shows that it supports PG fitness under challenging environmental adaptation (e.g. low osmolarity), suggesting that it could be a new phylum-specific antimicrobial target. This research is focused on characterizing structurally and biochemically this new PBP from V. cholerae – Vc1321. It’s is a membrane protein of 1023 amino acids. The protein is likely dimeric through disulfide bridges. We have demonstrated its bifunctional transglycosylase and transpeptidase domains both in vitro and in vivo and we are now applying all sorts of genetics to understand more about its biological function and network partners. 

Vc1321, renamed as PBP1V, has been cloned, expressed and purified. Characterization of the structure, kinetics, and dynamics would help to understand catalytic peculiarities and putative interaction domains with other partners. Understanding the nature and function of PBP1V might provide a new way to increase our armory of growth-affecting compounds of low or no toxicity, an unexplored ground for the development of a species-specific class of antimicrobials for clinical therapies. 

Lead PI: Elisabeth Sauer-Eriksson:

Co-PI: Felipe Cava:

Green Structural Biology in cellulose and silk biotechnology 

An important aspect of green chemistry and a sustainable and circular economy is to develop environmentally friendly methodology to retrieve valuable chemicals from complex biomaterials. This interdisciplinary project tackles this challenging task by exploring the molecular mechanisms underlying enzymatic processing of recalcitrant natural polymers: cellulose and silk fibers. In the project we focus on two enzymes that bring novel functionality in cellulose and silk bio-processing by softening their structure and paving the way for further biocatalytic transformation of the fibers. 

We are seeking a structural biologist with a strong background in biochemistry and/or protein production with different expression organisms. The structural biology background may be in any of the areas of NMR spectroscopy, single particle cryo EM or x-ray crystallography.  The project is based on novel discoveries in both the Jönsson and Wolf-Watz laboratories. The successful candidate will have the possibility to define and shape the project dependent on background and ambitions and may focus on both enzymes and/or the structures of cellulose and silk-based biomaterials.

Lead PI: Magnus Wolfl-Watz:

Co-PI: Leif Jönsson:

Multimolecular complexes providing surface stability of caveolae and direct connection sites to the endoplasmatic reticulum for fatty acid uptake 

Caveolae are small invaginations of the plasma membrane involved in regulating lipid homeostasis. Patients and mice models lacking key structural components of caveolae are severely impaired in their ability to store fat. Caveolae are stabilized at the plasma membrane via assembly of specific proteins around the caveolae neck creating a narrow membrane funnel. It is currently unclear how these proteins structurally assemble at the membrane interphase of the caveolae neck to mediate stabilization of caveolae. Furthermore, based on preliminary data, we hypothesize that the role of caveolae in fatty acid uptake is conveyed by direct connection sites between caveolae and cellular organelles. The idea of this project is to; a) structurally characterize the stabilizing protein-complexes at the caveolae neck as well as connection sites to organelles in cells using correlative light and electron microscopy (CLEM) volume imaging. b) Resolve ATP-dependent kinetics and structural rearrangements in caveolae-stabilizing proteins during membrane assembly at high temporal resolution using reconstituted model systems.

Lead PI: Linda Sandblad:

Co-PI: Richard Lundmark:

Co-PI: Magnus Andersson:

Structural basis of misfolded SOD1 toxicity in human motor neurons 

ALS is a rapidly progressing neurodegenerative disease with no cure. Protein unfolding, misfolding and aggregation are intimately linked to the etiology of the ALS and seem to involve prion-like mechanisms of templated protein aggregation. However, the structure of misfolded protein species responsible for ALS has yet to be defined. The gene encoding the SOD1 protein was the first identified genetic cause of ALS and we have now identified a highly cytotoxic form of the misfolded SOD1 protein derived under defined conditions in vitro. The aim of this project is to resolve the structure this potentially disease-causing form of SOD1 using Cryo-EM, and also study its localization and protein interaction in cultured human patient derived motor neurons using correlated light and electron microscopy (CLEM) including tomography. This will enable the structure and activity of SOD1 protein aggregates to be understood in relation to ALS.

Lead PI: Linda Sandblad:

Co-PI: Jonathan Gilthorpe:

Co-PI: Richard Lundmark:

New article in Biochemistry

Martínez-Carranza M, Blasco P, Gustafsson R, Dong M, Berntsson RP, Widmalm G, Stenmark P. Synaptotagmin Binding to Botulinum Neurotoxins. Biochemistry in press. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.9b00554

Jonas Barandun featured in “Kemisk Tidskrift” article

In an article in the latest issue of “Kemisk Tidskrift” Jonas Baranduns “tiny” ribosome structure is shown together with an update on ISB in Umeå!!

New article in Nature Microbiology: Evolutionary compaction and adaptation visualized by the structure of the dormant microsporidian ribosome

A new study from the Barandun research group in collaboration with researchers at The Rockefeller University and The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment station uncovers the cryo-EM structure of the smallest known eukaryotic cytoplasmic ribosome. The structure visualizes the effect of extreme genome compaction on the translation machinery in microsporidia, uncovers a species-specific ribosomal protein and suggests a novel mode of ribosome inhibition in eukaryotes.


Barandun, J., Hunziker, M., Vossbrinck, C. R. & Klinge, S. Evolutionary compaction and adaptation visualized by the structure of the dormant microsporidian ribosome. Nat. Microbiol. (2019). in press. doi:10.1038/s41564-019-0514-6

Involved research groups:

Barandun research group
The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS) and SciLifeLab National Fellow
Department of Molecular Biology

Klinge laboratory
Laboratory of Protein and Nucleic Acid Chemistry, Klinge Lab
The Rockefeller University, New York, USA

Vossbrinck laboratory
Department of Environmental Sciences 
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
New Haven, CT, USA

Image Attributions

  1. “Corn (Zea mays): Corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea)” by Plant pests and diseases is licensed under CC PDM 1.0 
  2. Vairimorpha necatrix spores, picture by Charles R. Vossbrinck

ISB Postdoctoral program – 2 postdoc positions available

The ISB Postdoctoral program is now open for interested applicants! This year we have 2 fully financed postdoctoral fellowships open – Please see here for more info.

Postdoctoral and PhD opening at Wu lab: Autophagy & Chemo-optogenetics

Umeå University is dedicated to providing creative environments for learning and work. We offer a wide variety of courses and programs, world leading research, and excellent innovation and collaboration opportunities. More than 4300 employees and 33979 students from over 60 nationalities have already chosen Umeå University. The recent breakthrough researches from Umeå include deciphering the molecular mechanisms of the bacterial CRISPR-Cas9 system and repurposing it into a tool for genome editing.

Umeå Campus

The Wu lab recently relocated from Max Planck Institute in Dortmund Germany to Umeå Sweden. The lab is located within the cross-disciplinary Chemical Biological Centre (video) ( at Umeå University. The lab is fully equipped for biological and chemical researches with access to excellent facilities and state-of-art equipment and platforms in a creative, inspiring, international and highly interactive environment. Facilities include Protein Expertise Platform, X-ray, Proteomics, NMR (850-400 MHz), Cryo-EM and Biochemical Imaging Centre (confocal, FLIM, spinning disk, TIRF, STORM).

Project: Autophagy mechanisms

Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved self-eating process mainly to eliminate or recycle dysfunctional cellular organelles or unused proteins. Autophagy plays an important role in physiology including development and ageing and has been associated with diverse human diseases, including cancer, neurodegeneration and pathogen infection. Autophagy modulation is implicated in the treatment of diseases such as neurodegeneration and cancer. Despite extensive work, the mechanisms of autophagosome formation and autophagy regulation are not yet well established. Our laboratory has elucidated fundamental mechanisms underlying autophagosome formation and bacterial escape from host autophagy using chemical genetic approaches (eLife 2017, Angew Chem 2017, Nat Chem Biol 2019). We will combine cell biological, biochemical, and novel chemical and chemo-optogenetic approaches to understand the mechanism of autophagic membrane morphogenesis and bacterial interaction with host autophagy.

Project: Chemo-optogenetics

Genetic perturbations such as knock-out or knock-down approaches is powerful for biological studies. However, traditional genetic approaches are chronic (hours to days). Consequently, the phenotype may not be detected due to adaptation and the dynamics of phenotypic change cannot be followed. Chemical genetic approaches using small molecules are acute, reversible, conditional and tunable and have been very useful to dissect the complexity of biological regulatory networks. However, many of these compounds have additional off-target effects that may confound elucidation of biological systems in certain contexts. Our laboratory has developed a set of chemical and photochemically induced dimerization (CID, pCID, psCID) system to spatiotemporally control cellular signaling and intracellular cargo transport (Angew Chem 2014, 2017, 2018, 2018). We will further develop novel chemo-optogenetic systems that enables the activity to be controlled by light with high spatial and temporal precision in live cells and organisms.

The projects are interdisciplinary with strong international collaborations across scientific disciplines. The European Research Council (ERC) and Wallenberg Foundation are funding the research in long term.


The required qualification for postdoc is a doctoral degree in cell biology, biochemistry, chemical biology, or in another relevant field. The required qualification for PhD student is a master degree or equivalent in chemistry or biology related field. Highly motivated young talents are encouraged to apply.


For how to apply:

For further information you are welcome to contact Prof. Yaowen Wu


E-mail: yaowen.wu[at]

Press release:

F1-ATPase function uncovered with computational structural biology

In a computational study by ISB member Kwangho Nam (Umeå and UT Arlington) and Martin Karplus (Harvard University) a detailed model has been developed for the coupling between rotary motion and ATP hydrolysis in F1-ATPase.  The model predicts that F1-ATPase functions at near its maximum possible efficiency. The finding is published in PNAS.

Mechanism of enzyme activation discovered

In an ISB effort the research groups lead by  Anna Linusson, Elisabeth Sauer-Eriksson and Magnus Wolf-Watz has discovered a key event in activation of the essential enzyme adenylate kinase. It was discovered that the large-scale and activating conformational change triggered by ATP binding is nucleated by a strong cation-PI interaction formed between the cationic sidechain of an arginine with the aromatic adenosine base of ATP. The discovery may pave way for future enzyme design efforts where recognition of aromatic systems is required. The finding was made possible through an integrative effort using DFT calculations, NMR spectroscopy and x-ray crystallography. The team consisted of Per Rogne, David Andersson, Christin Grundström, Elisabeth Sauer-Eriksson, Anna Linusson and Magnus Wolf-Watz. The finding is published in Biochemistry

PhD position in Karina Persson’s group

A fully funded PhD position is available in Karina Persson’s group. The overall aim of the project is to obtain structural and functional data of bacterial fimbrial proteins and associated proteins involved in maturation of fimbria For more information and how to apply:

The closing date for applications is the 5th of Aug. 2019.

Postdoc position available in the Berntsson lab – study of adhesion proteins in G+ T4SSs

The Berntsson lab at the department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Umeå University, Sweden, is looking to recruit postdoctoral fellow (2-year fellowships, funded by the Kempe Foundation) to study the structural and functional aspects of Type 4 Secretion Systems. These large protein complexes are responsible for horizontal gene transfer between bacteria. As such, they facilitate the spread of, among other genes, antibiotic resistance between bacteria, both intra- and interspecies.

The overall goal of this project is to structurally and functionally characterize the adhesion proteins of G+ Type 4 Secretion Systems. These proteins are thought to be responsible for facilitating mating pair formation between the cells. We have the past years studied the T4SS from the pCF10 plasmid from Enterococcus faecalis, and we now understand the structural basis for how these cell-wall anchored proteins are involved both in biofilm formation and conjugation. However, there are numerous unanswered questions that we are still pursuing. The project will involve both functional assays in molecular biology, various biochemistry techniques (such as EMSAs and ITC) as well as protein structural determination via X-ray crystallography and/or single particle cryo EM. 


The applicants must possess a PhD, or another diploma deemed equivalent to a PhD, within molecular biology, biochemistry, structural biology or a related field. Furthermore, the applicant must have practical experience and expertise of cloning and protein production and purification in bacteria. The applicant must also have practical experience with either protein X-ray crystallography or cryo Electron Microscopy. Previous experience of working with Gram-positive bacteria is a merit. The applicants must have a very good level of English, both written and spoken. The applicants are also expected to be good team players, but should also be able to work independently. 


The application should consist of the following:

  1. A motivation letter (max 1 A4), where you highlight why you want to join the laband study T4SSs. This letter must also include your contact information.
  2. The Curriculum Vitae of the applicant, including a list of published peer-reviewed articles.
  3. Copy of the PhD diploma (or equivalent).
  4. Contact details for three references, of which one should be your PhD supervisor.

The duration of the fellowship is 2 years. Your application should be written in English and prepared as a single package in PDF format, to be submitted to Make sure touse the subject line: “postdoc application 2019-08” in the application email.Submit the applicationon August 19th, 2019 at the latest. The top ranked candidates will be contacted within two weeks from the closing date for an interview. Starting date according to agreement. For more information about the research or other details, do not hesitate to contact Dr. Ronnie Berntsson.