Till Böcking

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Molecular machines –what makes them tick?

To combat viruses, host cells have developed weapons to sabotage the delivery of viral genetic code into their nuclei. There are specialised proteins that either prematurely crack open the protective viral capsid encasing the virus—exposing its genetic material to degradation—or lock the DNA in so it cannot enter the nucleus.

Till Böcking wants to understand how these and other molecular machines work.

By reconstituting these protein interactions—and watching them work using single molecule imaging—Till can see just what is required for the machines to run. He also hopes his findings will help in drug design to improve these machines and fight disease.

We develop fluorescence imaging approaches to visualise the dynamics of self-assembly processes at the single molecule level. The advantage of single molecule measurements is that they can resolve the kinetics of processes without the need for synchronisation and permit the detection of short-lived intermediates in the reaction pathways that are otherwise averaged out in traditional ensemble measurements.

Our work draws on approaches from the physical sciences with development of microfluidic imaging devices, surface chemistry approaches and development of automated image analysis software.

Current projects at Molecular Machines Research page

About Till Böcking

Till is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pathology at UNSW. After undergraduate studies in biochemistry at the University of Bonn in Germany, he trained in the physical sciences at UNSW with Hans Coster (PhD in Biophysics) and with Justin Gooding focusing on molecular self-assembly before heading to Boston to work on the endocytosis machinery with cell biologist Tom Kirchhausen at Harvard Medical School. He now leads the Molecular Machines Group at Single Molecule Science.

Select Publications

Mallery DL; Faysal KMR; Kleinpeter A; Wilson MSC; Vaysburd M; Fletcher AJ; Novikova M; Böcking T; Freed EO; Saiardi A; James LC (2019) Cellular IP6 Levels Limit HIV Production while Viruses that Cannot Efficiently Package IP6 Are Attenuated for Infection and Replication. Cell Reports, vol. 29, pp. 3983 - 3996.e4, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.celrep.2019.11.050.
Lau D; Walsh JC; Peng W; Shah VB; Turville S; Jacques DA; Böcking T (2019) Fluorescence Biosensor for Real-Time Interaction Dynamics of Host Proteins with HIV-1 Capsid Tubes. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces, vol. 11, pp. 34586 - 34594, http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsami.9b08521.
Peng W; Shi J; Márquez CL; Lau D; Walsh J; Faysal KMR; Byeon CH; Byeon IJL; Aiken C; Böcking T (2019) Functional analysis of the secondary HIV-1 capsid binding site in the host protein cyclophilin A. Retrovirology, vol. 16, http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12977-019-0471-4.

Márquez CL; Lau D; Walsh J; Shah V; McGuinness C; Wong A; Aggarwal A; Parker MW; Jacques DA; Turville S; Böcking T (2018) Kinetics of HIV-1 capsid uncoating revealed by single-molecule analysis. eLife, vol. 7, http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.34772.

Mallery DL; Márquez CL; McEwan WA; Dickson CF; Jacques DA; Anandapadamanaban M; Bichel K; Towers GJ; Saiardi A; Böcking T; James LC (2018) IP6 is an HIV pocket factor that prevents capsid collapse and promotes DNA synthesis. eLife, vol. 7, http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.35335.


Click here to see full publication list

More Information

Career Highlights

  • Human Frontiers Science Program Cross-disciplinary Fellowship (2007)
  • ARC Future Fellow (2011)
  • NHMRC Career Development Award, honourary (2011)

Lab Members

  • Vaibhav Shah (Postdoctoral fellow)  
  • James Walsh (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Jeffrey Stear (Postdoctoral fellow)
  • Wang Peng (PhD student)
  • KM Rifat Faysal (PhD student)
  • Conall McGuinness (PhD student)


Chaperone Mechanisms

HIV Host-cell Interactions

Actin Assembly Machines

Single Molecule Approaches

Current Funding Sources

  • Australian Research Council
  • National Health and Medical Research Council
  • Wellcome Trust
  • Australian Centre for HIV and Hepatitis Virology Research