The Royal Society funds over 600 research scientists from early to senior career stages and covering a wide range of subjects in the natural sciences. Many produce amazing images as part of their research, and in the coming months we will be showcasing the best images on this blog.

This month’s colourful image is a Phage protein crystal and was taken by Dr Edward Taylor, a Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of York. Dr Taylor’s research focuses on Phages, which are viruses that infect bacteria by hijacking the bacterial metabolism to express the phage genes and build new viral particles. He works on a particular phage which infects the human pathogenic bacteria Streptococcus pyogens and carries a toxin which makes the bacteria more harmful.

To find out the structure and function of the phage proteins Dr Taylor grows the protein crystals then fires an X-ray beam at them:  “The many protein molecules which are packed within the crystal “reflect” the beam causing X-ray diffraction. We are able to measure this on a detector and use the data to calculate an electron density map. Using this map we can model in a chain of the various amino acids which make up the protein. This reveals its overall three dimensional shape and can tell us a great deal about the proteins biological function. The crystals in the image are made up of a regulatory protein whose structure suggests it functions by binding to DNA. “

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