My First Paper: Laura Bracun

Posted on: 7 October 2022 by Laura Bracun in October 2022 Posts

Figure: Laura Bracun

This week we continue our 'My First Paper' Campaign, showcasing researchers and their research - with Laura Bracun from the Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Systems Biology.

Your name and your area of research

I am Laura Bracun, a PhD student in Professor Liu’s lab at the Institute of Systems, Molecular and Integrative Biology. My PhD programme is a collaboration between the University of Liverpool and RIKEN Institute in Japan, and as part of it, I have spent the past two and a half years working in RIKEN Yokohama. My project focuses on determining the structure of core protein complexes that purple bacteria (genus Rhodobacter) utilize in photosynthesis using state-of-the-art cryo-electron microscopy.  I am now back in Liverpool doing the final year of my program. Last year, I published my first paper!

What was the title of your first paper and who was it submitted to?

The title was ‘Cryo-EM structure of the photosynthetic RC-LH1-PufX supercomplex at 2.8-Å resolution’. It was first submitted to Nature and to Science, but both rejected it with recommendation that we submit it to another journal in their respective groups. Finally, it was published in Science Advances (Bracun et al., Sci. Adv. 2021; 7 : eabf8864).

How would you explain what this paper was about to your grandparents?

I would say it is about trying to figure out the details about how some bacteria feed on light. Or rather, what the molecular machine that some bacteria use to turn light into food looks like.

What was the most significant thing for you about that paper?

There is a polypeptide chain called PufX that is the center of debate when it comes to photosynthetic core complexes of Rhodobacter species. We knew it was a part of the complex and we knew it was somehow involved in complex dimerization in some species of Rhodobacter, but we knew nothing of its position or the scope of its interactions within the native complex. For me, the most significant thing about that paper is how we managed to observe PufX within the native core complex and that this position turned out to be slightly unexpected.

What advice would you give to others about submitting their first paper?

When submitting a paper, it doesn’t feel quite as ‘finished’ as you might imagine. It will always appear as if there is more to do, add or fix. At some point (better sooner than later), you will just have to decide it is good enough. Finally, the reviewers and editors will give constructive comments to make the final publication better and as complete as it can be.

You can read Laura's first paper here!

Bracun L, Yamagata A, Christianson BM, Terada T, Canniffe DP, Shirouzu M, Liu LN. Cryo-EM structure of the photosynthetic RC-LH1-PufX supercomplex at 2.8-Å resolution. Sci Adv. 2021 Jun 16;7(25):eabf8864. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abf8864. PMID: 34134992; PMCID: PMC8208714.