Glycoconjugates (sugar-containing molecules) are essential mediators in host-pathogen interactions (attachment, inflammatory signaling, immunity), lymphocyte extravasation, metastatic cancer cell adhesion to endothelia, cellular differentiation, and the recognition and phagocytosis of dead cells and pathogens. Therefore, innovative molecular glycobiological research brings a unique perspective to the biomedical research lines at DMBR. The goal of the unitís research is to contribute to the understanding of the biosynthesis and function of complex glycoconjugates that are biomedically relevant, through the development of novel tools and technologies, and to exploit this understanding for biomedical purposes.
We are continuously developing high-throughput analytical technology for these glycosylated molecules, with applications both in basic science and in clinical diagnostics. As an example of the latter, we discovered new markers for the non-invasive monitoring of progression of liver fibrosis up to the cirrhosis stage, and these markers are now being validated and translated into routinely applicable diagnostic tests. In the field of host-pathogen interactions, we are developing a functional glycomics approach to discover drug targets in the glycoconjugate biosynthesis pathways of pathogenic mycobacteria, and we are starting to explore the potential of novel glyco-engineered vaccines for important human diseases.
Finally, we are engineering the yeast protein secretion system, to generate a strain that is optimal for the production of homogeneously glycosylated eukaryotic membrane proteins. Virtually all intercellular communication is mediated by membrane proteins, and most drugs target them, but robust technology to over-produce these targets for structural and functional studies is lacking. We want to contribute to solving this problem.
» Biological systems engineering (synthetic biology)
» Glycoconjugate engineering
» High-throughput glycan profiling (glycomics)
» Clinical trial design for diagnostics
» Development of optimized yeast strains for expression of membrane
proteins and secreted N- and O-glycosylated proteins
» Glycomics-based diagnostics development