Bacteria and viruses infect organisms by using proteins that attach to molecules in the surface of the host. HIV-1 uses its envelope glycoprotein gp120 to attach to CD4 in the surface of T cell. Similarly, the bacterium E. coli uses an array of proteins called pilus for establishing mechanical anchoring to tissues. These proteins withstand mechanical forces that go from few to hundreds of picoNewtons. The effect of these forces in the structure and chemistry of the proteins is not understood but it may have implications in the infection process.

In the present project, we will investigate the role of mechanical forces in the structure and chemistry of the microbial attachment proteins as well as the infection process. We will use an array of techniques to study the nanomechanics of viral and bacterial infections progressively from single molecules to cells. We aim to establish new knowledge of the molecular aspects that drive the mechanical interaction of microbes with their targets.


Description of the research group:

The Nanobiotechnology Group in CIC nanoGUNE has accumulated vast experience in the study of protein mechanics using single-molecule techniques. They use atomic force spectroscopy to explore the effect of mechanical forces in microbial attachment proteins, human CD4 and E. coli pilus. This technique allows monitoring chemical reactions under force such as the reduction of disulfide bonds or the binding of peptides, small molecules and antibodies, processes which are known to be implicated in microbial infections and that may have a mechanical origin. For more information, see our website at



If you are a master student and you are interested in this project, please get in touch with the scientist in charge: Raul Pérez-Jiménez (

To apply for a master scholarship fill in the form below and follow the instructions and recommendations of the general call (open until 30 June 2022).



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