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Dr Philip Robinson

MRC CDA Research Fellow and Principle Investigator

Contact Details

tel: +44 (0) 207631 6544
room: B60 (office) B54 (lab)
address: Department of Biological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7HX

Research website:

Research interests

  • We are interested in gaining a molecular understanding of the processes that regulate DNA accessibility and control the transcriptional state of gene promoters. Eukaryotes depend on the activity of a collection of macromolecular machines to modulate chromatin structure and dynamics at gene regulatory elements. These machines are responsible for overcoming the repressive effects of chromatin packaging and provide DNA access to the basal transcriptional machinery. Chromatin remodelling complexes are a large superfamily of ATP-dependent DNA translocases that use the energy of ATP hydrolysis to modify the DNA-histone contacts within nucleosomes, driving nucleosome mobilisation or eviction. Mutations that disrupt the normal function of chromatin remodelling complexes have been implicated in a surprisingly large number of human neurodevelopmental disorders and tumour types.

    We use an integrative structural biology approach to investigate the molecular structure and mechanism of macromolecular chromatin modifying machines. In this approach we combine data from X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, mass spectrometry, biophysical analysis and computational modelling strategies to build a detailed molecular picture of the 3-dimensional organisation and functional dynamics of these complicated multi-subunit protein assemblies.

Selected publications

    • Robinson PJ, Trnka MJ, Bushnell DA, Davis RE, Mattei PJ, Burlingame AL, Kornberg RD. Structure of a Complete Mediator-RNA Polymerase II Pre-Initiation Complex. Cell. 2016 Sep 08;166(6):1411-22 e16. PubMed PMID: 27610567.
    • Robinson PJ, Trnka MJ, Pellarin R, Greenberg CH, Bushnell DA, Davis R, Burlingame AL, Sali A, Kornberg RD. Molecular architecture of the yeast Mediator complex. eLife. 2015 Sep 24;4. PubMed PMID: 26402457. Epub Sep 24.
    • Robinson PJ, Bushnell DA, Trnka MJ, Burlingame AL, Kornberg RD. Structure of the mediator head module bound to the carboxy-terminal domain of RNA polymerase II. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012 Oct 30;109(44):17931-5. PubMed PMID: 23071300. PMCID: 3497735.

Teaching/PhD supervision

  • We have a number of projects ideally suited for incoming PhD students interested in transcription and chromatin research. Students will receive extensive training in all components of an integrated structural biology workflow, including access to Birkbeck's top-end cryo-EM facilities. PhD students interested in potential projects in the lab should get in touch by email. Applications should be made through the ISMB’s PhD programs.

Dr Philip Robinson