Facilities

Our group is formed a close alliance between the Webster and Wilcockson research groups in North and Mid Wales, UK. Our laboratories are housed in our respective institutes, the School of Biological Science, College of Natural Science, Bangor University, UK and the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, UK. The Crustacean Biology group, therefore, has laboratories in both institutes dedicated to molecular biology, that provide us with all the necessary equipment to conduct modern, cutting edge research.

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Molecular lab

We utilise contemporary molecular techniques including quantitative RT-PCR, in situ hybridisation and RNA interference in addition to immunochemical and proteomics based tools. Our molecular laboratories are equipped with all the necessary kit for RNA extraction and synthesis, generation of oligonucleotide probes for in situ, PCR and we have on-site access to about 10 ‘real-time’ qPCR machines, including Applied Biosystems, 384-well ‘Fast’ cycling platforms. We have an on-site Sanger sequencing service, multiple nucleic acid quantification and integrity analysers and leading-edge gel imaging equipment, robotic liquid handling stations and an Affymetrix microarray chip scanner.

Genomics Centre

On the Aberystwyth site we have direct access to the recently built genomics facility for next generation sequencing, with the use of Roche 454, Illumina HiScan/MiSeq and Ion Torrent PGM/Proton platforms. Finally, recent investment has led to the formation of a new Bioinformatics hub on site with the purchase of two large server clusters (one high processing capability, one high-memory) for analysis of large datasets for NGS. We have full time bioinformatics support staff who oversee the operation of the HPC facility and assist with large NGS datasets, including all aspects of transcriptome assembly and analysis.

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Preparation and peptides laboratory

Much of our work necessitates extremely fine microdissection to isolate and prepare nervous tissue for histological work, molecular analysis, and peptide purification. We have several High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) systems, including a fully automated Dionex Summit machine with diode array, fluorescence, electrochemical and radiochemical detectors.

We are fully registered to use radioisotopes and have specially equipped grade A and grade B laboratories where we can undertake all aspects of radioisotope work. Our Counter Room contains Wallac 1470 gamma, and Wallac 1414 beta counters, and a Victor-2 1420 multilabel counter. These facilities are particularly useful to our group in the development and application of exquisitely sensitive and specific immunoassays that we use to measure hormone titres in our experimental animals.

Other facilities readily accessible for our use include flow cytometry, 2D gel electrophoresis and robotic spot-picker.

Mass Spectrometry

Across both institutes we have excellent mass spectrometery facilities with skilled technical support. In the Crustacean Group we routinely use a Brüker Reflex 4 MALDI-TOF MS for peptide analysis. We have direct access also to the proteomics and metabolomics suite at Aberystwyth. Here we are able to perform protein analysis by mass spectrometry for intact mass analysis and high sensitivity protein identification by: MS/MS and de novo sequencing (6500 Series Accurate-Mass Quadrupole Time-of-Flight (Q-TOF) LC/MS; ThermoScientific LTQ FT Ultra hybrid MS); Local installation of the Mascot server to couple ‘in-house’ generated genomic and transcriptomic databases to MS protein identification; Analysis of protein interactions using MS and novel approaches (i.e. Ellipsometry); Protein purification for native and recombinant protein (i.e. AKTA Purifier)

Confocal Microscopy

In order to localise peptides and RNA in our tissue preparations we use highly specific and sensitive fluorescently labelled immunochemical and molecular probes. We visualise these on Zeiss LSM 710 and 510 and Leica TCS SP5 laser confocal microscopes with multiphoton capability. This facility enables us to generate pseudo 3-dimensional digital images of whole tissue preparations and to use multiple fluor labels at the same time for antigen co-localisation studies.

The Aberystwyth bioimaging suite now has a Hitachi S-4700 field emission scanning electron microscope (FESEM), a JEOL 1010 transmission electron microscope (TEM) and a JEOL 840A cryo scanning electron microscope (CSEM) with superb technical assistance for training and maintenance.

Aquarium facilities

Both institutes have state-of-the-art re-circulating seawater aquaria located at ground-floor level. Here we keep stocks of experimental animals in holding tanks and have purpose built constant environment rooms. Our locations next to the Menai Strait and Cardigan Bay means that a huge variety of animals can be collected and held out our facility very easily. This enables us to carry out a range of exciting projects with healthy, physiologically uncompromised animals.