The aims of our research unit are to understand the molecular mechanisms underlying microbial pathogenesis. Our common interest is the study of molecular and macromolecular interactions in structural, dynamic and functional terms. In this context, we investigate the bacterial cell cycle, intracellular signaling, modulation of cell functions, membrane transport and host-pathogen interactions. These goals are achieved by developing and exploiting cellular biology and biochemistry approaches in combination with bioinformatics and structural biology methodologies.
Main Focus of our research
• Protein function and interaction networks
Understanding the catalytic mechanism of enzymes and how proteins work at the molecular level, especially during microbial infections, is pivotal to our research unit. Because proteins rarely function alone, our interest is also centered on the function, dysfunction and post-translational modulation of protein networks, within the pathogen and host cell. We focus on cellular perturbations induced by exogenous factors such as drugs and secreted bacterial proteins.
• Membrane transport
Biological membranes constitute an active barrier between the cell, its environment and external stresses. They are also the structural platform for many fundamental cellular processes. How proteins interact with membranes, how they transport molecules through membranes, and how the function of the membrane can be perturbed by exogenous factors are major topics.
• Macromolecular assemblies
Deciphering the assembly and functioning of macromolecular machines is essential in microbial development and pathogenesis and is a central theme of the unit. Typical systems include virus self-assembly, bacterial cell envelope synthesis machines, DNA motor complexes, the cell division machinery and bacterial secretion systems.
• Protein-nucleic acid interactions and dynamics
While DNA is generally seen as a one-dimensional support of genetic information, it is, in reality, a major component of macromolecular complexes, whose dynamics are essential for cellular function. In this context, how DNA replicates and exchange between cells, how DNA modifications influence its function, and how its function can be subverted by pathogens, are burning questions.