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Professor Trevor Sewell PhD(UCT)

Structural Biology Group

Trevor Sewell

Director: Electron Microscope Unit, Division of Medical Biochemistry & Structural Biology, Department of Integrative Biomedical Sciences; Member, Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), Faculty of Health Sciences, UCT

The Electron Microscope Unit is a University Service Facility supporting a wide range of imaging techniques in both the Biological and Physical Sciences. It specializes in cryo-Electron Microscopy and three-dimensional imaging.

Trevor Sewell’s research group’s interests include the structures of proteases, including HIV PR and angiotensin converting enzyme, nitrilases and other potentially useful industrial enzymes. He has interest in drug design as well as the structures of larger biological assemblies. A number of proteins and protein groups are being studied: Nitrilases, Glutamine Synthetase, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme, Nitrile Hydratase, Chaperonin GroEL E461K, Glutathione-S-transferase.


Selected publications:

Park J.M., Ponder C.M., Sewell B.T., Benedik M.J. Residue Y70 of the nitrilase cyanide dihydratase from Bacillus pumilus is critical for formation and activity of the spiral oligomer. Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology (2016) 26(12):2179-2183

Crum M.A., Park J.M., Sewell B.T., Benedik M.J. C-terminal hybrid mutant of Bacillus pumilus cyanide dihydratase dramatically enhances thermal stability and pH tolerance by reinforcing oligomerization. Journal of Applied Microbiology (2015) 118(4):881-889

Crum M.A.-N., Park J.M., Mulelu A.E., Sewell B.T., Benedik M.J. Probing C-terminal interactions of the Pseudomonas stutzeri cyanide-degrading CynD protein. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology (2015) 99(7):3093-3102

Weber B.W., Kimani S.W., Varsani A., Cowan D.A., Hunter R., Venter G.A., Gumbart J.C., Sewell B.T. The mechanism of the amidases: Mutating the glutamate adjacent to the catalytic triad inactivates the enzyme due to substrate mispositioning. Journal of Biological Chemistry (2013) 288(40):28514-28523

Ambele M.A., Sewell B.T., Cummings F.R., Smith P.J., Egan T.J. Synthetic hemozoin (β-hematin) crystals nucleate at the surface of neutral lipid droplets that control their sizes. Crystal Growth and Design (2013) 13(10):4442-4452


Contact details:

Electron Microscope Unit
Aaron Klug Centre for Imaging and Analysis
Room 1.01 NEB
55 Madiba Circle
Rondebosch, South Africa

Tel:  +27 21 6502817
Cell: +27 82 7161790


Alternate site:


Group members:

Dr Innocent Shuro Chief Scientific Officer (Materials Science)
Dr Brandon Weber Principal Scientific Officer (Bioscience)
Mohamed Jaffer Principal Scientific Officer (TEM)
Miranda Waldron Chief Scientific Officer (SEM)
Michael Woodward Principal Technical Officer (Maintenance)
Sean Karriem Technical Officer (Vacuum Technology, Health and Safety)



Michael Benedik Texas A&M University, USA
Helen Saibil Birkbeck College, University of London, UK
Heinrich Dirr University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Valerie Abratt University of Cape Town, South Africa
Donald Cowan University of the Western Cape, South Africa