Quickscan scientific topics

5 June 2016

#antimicrobials #protein aggregation
Joost Schymkowitz and Frederic Rousseau (SWITCH lab – VIB/KU Leuven) have shown that toxicity resulting from protein aggregation can be turned against bacteria to treat bacterial infections without affecting their murine host. To that effect, they have designed short peptides containing aggregation-prone sequences derived from bacterial proteins. These peptides are efficiently absorbed by bacteria thereby inducing intracellular bacterial protein aggregation.
Bednarska et al., Mol Microbiol 2015

#carbon export #ocean microbiome
The biological carbon pump is the process by which CO2 is transformed into organic carbon through
photosynthesis, exported through sinking particles, and finally sequestered in the deep ocean. Samuel Chaffron of the Jeroen Raes lab (VIB/KU Leuven) and his colleagues used Tara Oceans datasets to show that specific plankton community networks correlate with carbon export in the subtropical oligotrophic ocean. Additionally, they showed that the relative abundance of a few genes could predict a significant fraction of the variability in carbon export in these regions.
Guidi et al., Nature 2015

#protein ubiquitination #arabidopsis
Plants employ protein ubiquitination as a key mechanism to respond quickly to a changing
environment and to control growth and development. For the first time in Arabidopsis, the Kris Gevaert and Sofie Goormachtig labs (VIB/UGent) have reported a proteome-wide mapping of ubiquitination sites via enrichment at the peptide level. Profiling exact ubiquitin conjugation sites on proteins breaks ground for better appreciation of ubiquitin-governed processes in plants.
Walton, Stes et al., Plant Cell 2016

#brain size #genetic basis
The Patrick Callaerts lab (VIB/KU Leuven) has characterized natural variation in mushroom body
morphology in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster to identify gene networks that act in brain development and plasticity and to find correlations with behavior. This work provides insight into the genetic basis of brain size and it opens perspectives for study of how the environment and gene networks interact and how brains and complex behaviors evolve.
Zwarts et al., Nat Commun 2015

#frontotemporal dementia #amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
The Christine Van Broeckhoven lab (VIB/Antwerp University) has identified mutations in TBK1 in Belgian FTD and ALS patients. This is the third gene linking both clinical diseases entities to the same biological pathway characterized by TDP-43 neuropathology. Mutations reduce TBK1 expression and were identified in autosomal dominant and sporadic patients. TBK1 mutations are frequent in FTD patients and most carriers present at later age with the behavioral variant of FTD, early memory loss and Parkinsonism. Christine Van Broeckhoven explains: “The identification of TBK1 again demonstrates the power of the Flanders- Belgian FTD patient population which is collected within the Belgian Neurology (BELNEU) consortium, a national network of participating neurology expertise centers associated with university and general hospitals across Flanders.”
Van Mossevelde et al., Brain 2015 Gijselinck et al., Neurology 2015

# synapse robustness #protein turnover #microautophagy
The synaptic contacts that neurons in our brain make with one another are usually far from the cell
body. Damaged components at synapses need to be recognized and removed to avoid synaptic depression. The Patrik Verstreken lab (VIB/KU Leuven) has identified a novel mechanism by which proteins are turned over at synapses, termed endosomal microautophagy. The chaperone Hsc70-4 is critical in this process and decides whether to refold a protein or to send it the endosome for degradation. By rejuvenating synaptic protein pools, endosomal microautophagy promotes neurotransmitter release, regulating synaptic strength.
Uytterhoeven et al., Neuron. 2015

#poplar trees #microbiome
In 2009, the Wout Boerjan lab (VIB/UGent) established a field trial with low lignin poplars to improve the processing of wood into liquid biofuels. A partnership with the Jaco Vangronsveld lab (UHasselt) has now revealed that engineering the lignin biosynthesis pathway also substantially influences the microbiota of the plant endosphere. These interactions need to be taken into account, and can potentially even be exploited when tailoring metabolic pathways.
Beckers et al., Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2016

#EMT # NK cell maturation
Using an unprecedented panel of mouse models, the Geert Berx and Bart Lambrecht labs (VIB/UGent) have demonstrated that the timely induction of Zeb2 by T-bet is an important event during NK cell terminal maturation that regulates NK cell differentiation, trafficking, responsiveness to chemokines, proliferation and survival.
van Helden et al., J Exp Med. 2015

#ischemic stroke #neuronal metabolism
How neuronal metabolism can be targeted to provide protection in brain disease remains poorly understood. The Peter Carmeliet lab (VIB/KU Leuven) shows that loss or inhibition of the oxygen sensor PHD1 protects against brain ischemia via reprogramming of neuronal metabolism. By shunting more glucose into the oxidative pentose phosphate pathway, PHD1 deficient neurons enhance their capacity to scavenge oxygen radicals, thereby securing redox homeostasis in ischemia.
Quaegebeur et al., Cell Metabolism 2016

Poplar trees