Rega Institute – Department of Microbiology and Immunology
We want to understand how proteins are correctly targeted to cell membranes and subsequently cross or integrate into them. More than a third of the proteome of all cells resides in membranes or is secreted across lipid bilayers. Membrane proteins catalyze solute transport, energy conversion, sensing and signal transduction and cell division. 30-50% of the top drug targets comprise membrane proteins such as G-protein coupled receptors and ion channels. Secretory proteins mediate cell-cell signaling, surface attachment, pathogenic toxicity and enzymatic scavenging. Because of their biophysically challenging nature, elucidating structures and understanding catalytic mechanisms of membranome/secretome proteins remain major challenges.
We mainly focus on two bacterial protein export pathways: a. The Sec pathway (ubiquitous and essential throughout life). and b. The Type III secretion (T3S) pathway (essential weapon for several Gram negative pathogens). Understanding protein trafficking helps us understand debilitating diseases such as cystic fibrosis that result from defective protein targeting. Other applications that stem from our basic research include novel antibacterials and vaccines, production of recombinant biopharmaceuticals, biosensors and bionanotechnology and combating biofilms.