Head of School
Professor Roger Morris
Roger Morris is Professor of Molecular Neurobiology at King’s College London and Head of the Department of Chemistry. He is a neurobiologist with particular interests in normal and pathological reactions of molecules on the neuronal surface.
His work at King’s has focused on two proteins that are tethered to the neuronal surface via lipid anchors, making them sensitive to changes in their lipid, as well as protein, environment. One is Thy-1, a protein that limits signaling strength in neurons in the adult brain. The other is prion protein, a normal molecule found on the neuronal surface that can occasionally, become misfolded. The misfolded forms collect in aggregates that recruit and change normal prion protein into their own misfolded form. These growing aggregates kill the neurons, causing neurodegenerative diseases such as Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease and mad cow disease.
Professor Morris’ work has shown that both normal and cellular forms of prion protein are rapidly removed from the neuronal surface by binding to the mega-receptor LRP1, which recycles normal prion protein to the surface, but leads the aggregates of misfolded prion protein to lysosomes that destroy waste material in the cell. This separate trafficking of the two prion protein forms helps limit prion infection.
It is important to understand how lipids organise into different environments, at the nanometre scale, on the cell surface (lipid-rafts). Professor Morris’s team was the first to show that Thy-1 and prion protein associate with distinct lipid rafts. Understanding prion protein rafts, and the LRP1 mega-receptor, is crucial for understanding the infectious process in prion disease.
Professor Morris graduated from the Australian National University before completing his PhD in 1975 at the MRC Immunochemistry Unit, Oxford, under Alan Williams and Rodney Porter. Following postdoctoral research at the University of Connecticut Health Centre, Professor Morris moved to the Laboratory of Neurobiology at the MRC’s National Institute for Medical Research in London. In 1995 he moved to the United Medical Schools of Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospitals, which merged with King’s in 1998. He was appointed Head of Biochemistry at King’s in 2005, and in 2007 became Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences.