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PBG Alumni

Dr Aleksandra Dabkowska

Dabkowska,Aleksandra140x180Maplethorpe Fellow
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Institute of Pharmaceutical Science
King's College London
5th Floor, Franklin-Wilkins Building
150 Stamford Street
London SE1 9NH



About Aleksandra

Dr Aleksandra Dabkowska came to PBG as a PhD student in Professor Lawrence's laboratory with Dr Peter Quinn as second supervisor. She then took up a Maplethorpe fellowship in the group for 2 years before moving to Lund University in Sweden to take up a post-doctoral position with Professor Tommy Nylander.

After completing her B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biochemistry at McMaster University (Canada), Aleksandra moved to King’s College London to begin her PhD under the direction of Professors Jayne Lawrence and Peter Quinn. The thesis research, entitled “Interaction of Biomolecules with Model Membranes”, employed biophysical methods to investigate the binding of DNA and a peripheral membrane protein to phospholipid bilayers. 

As a Maplethorpe Fellow in the Pharmaceutical Biophysics Group, Aleksandra's research, based in the lab of Professor Jayne Lawrence, was focused on the development of cellular membrane models suitable for embedding integral membrane proteins. Aleksandra uses biophysical methods, including neutron scattering techniques and molecular spectroscopy, to characterize these models.


Many drug targets are integral membrane proteins that require the support of a membrane-like environment to preserve their structure and function. Purification of these target proteins and their reconstitution into a suitable system remains the primary challenge for obtaining quantitative biophysical information about the target. My Maplethorpe Fellowship project has been focused on developing methodology for the preparation of floating supported bilayer models capable of harbouring membrane proteins in a membrane-like environment. The model membrane is based on the floating bilayer described by Hughes et al. (2008) where a phospholipid bilayer is deposited on top of a lipid self-assembled monolayer that is covalently bonded to the silicon support. The bilayer is “floating” as it has reduced friction with the solid support and is therefore free to behave much more like a cellular membrane. We are working towards the reconstitution of high amounts of purified target protein into this membrane-like environment. The protein-containing floating bilayer is a promising system for in vitro studies of purified membrane proteins using surface sensitive techniques.

Other areas of interest include:

  • The effect of dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) on phospholipids
  • Cytochrome c: the interaction of the peripheral membrane protein with anionic phospholipids.
  1. Dabkowska,A.P., Barlow,D.J., Clifton, L.A., Hughes, A.V., Webster, J.R.P., Green, R.J., Quinn, P.J. & Lawrence, M.J. (2014) Calcium-mediated binding of DNA to zwitterionic monolayers containing helper lipids. Soft Matter, 10, 1685-1695
  2. Mihut, A.M., Dabkowska, A.P., Crassous, J.J., Schurtenberger, P. & Nylander, T. (2013) Tunable adsorption of soft colloids on model membranes. ACS Nano, 7(12), 10752-63
  3. Dabkowska, A.P., Lawrence, M.J., McLain, S.E., Lorenz, C.D. (2013) On the nature of hydrogen bonding between the phosphatidylcholine head group and water and dimethylsulfoxide . Chem. Phys., 410 31-36.  
  4. Dabkowska, A.P., Talbot, J., Cavalcanti, L., Webster, J.R.P., Nelson, A., Barlow, D.J., Fragneto, G., Lawrence, M.J. (2013) Calcium mediated interaction of calf-thymus DNA with monolayers of distearoylphosphatidylcholine: a neutron and X-ray reflectivity study. Soft Matter , 9, 7095 – 7105.
  5. Dabkowska, A.P., Barlow, D.J., Campbell, R.A., Hughes, A.V., Quinn, P.J. & Lawrence, M.J. Effect of helper lipids in the interaction of DNA with cationic lipid monolayers studied by specular neutron reflection. Biomacromolecules 2012, 13(8) 2391-2401.
  6. Dabkowska, A.P., Barlow, D.J., Hughes, A.V., Campbell, R.A., Quinn, P.J. & Lawrence, M.J. The effect of helper lipids on the structure of cationic lipid monolayers. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 2012, 9 (68), 548-561
  7. Dabkowska, A.P., Foglia, F., Lawrence, M.J., Lorenz, C.D. & McLain, S.E. On the solvation structure of dimethylsulfoxide/water around the phosphatidylcholine head group in solution. J. Chem. Phys. 2011, 135 (22), 225105.
  8. Dabkowska, A.P., G. Fragneto, A.V. Hughes, P.J. Quinn, & M.J. Lawrence. Specular neutron reflectivity studies of the interaction of cytochrome c with supported phosphatidylcholine bilayers doped with phosphotidylserine. Langmuir 2009, 25 (7), 4203–4210.
  9. Hughes, A.V., J.R. Howse, A.P. Dabkowska, R.A.L. Jones, M.J. Lawrence, & S.J. Roser. Floating lipid bilayers deposited on chemically grafted phosphatidylcholine surfaces. Langmuir 2008, 24, 1989-1999.
  10. Couzon, C., D. Banks, J. Jonkman, A. Dabkowska, R. Nutiu, Y. Li, & C. Fradin. Characterization of the conformational changes of a tripartite molecular beacon. In Multiphoton Microscopy in the Biomedical Sciences IV (P.T. So, Editor), 184-194, 200
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