Charles Van der Henst Lab

Research focus

The Van der Henst lab focuses on multidrug-resistant bacteria, with a clear emphasis on the Gram-negative bacterium Acinetobacter baumannii. This nosocomial pathogen possesses a worrying and well-supplied resistance arsenal. In addition to increasing antibiotic resistances, A. baumannii thrives within hospital settings, relying on its resistances against disinfection procedures and environmental stresses. On top of that, A. baumannii virulence deserves to be better characterized. We aim to better understand the resistance and virulence arsenals of A. baumannii, while in parallel dedicating efforts in impairing them.

 "Better understand to better fight" 
Bacterial resistance
We decipher the molecular mechanisms governing bacterial resistances by combining phenotypic characterization with whole genome sequencing data using reference strains and recent clinical isolates. The main targeted mechanisms studied are involved in desiccation, disinfectant, serum and phagocytic resistances. The factors identified represent new targets for a priori screening of antiresistance compounds.

Bacterial virulence
Another part of our research studies A. baumannii virulence, with an emphasis on the polysaccharide capsule. We compare the levels of capsule production in the reference strains and in the current clinical isolates, their heterogeneity and their potential involvement in A. baumannii virulence using in vitro and in vivo infection models. The virulence factors identified represent new targets for the discovery of new antivirulence molecules.

Drug discovery
In parallel of the fundamental part that aims at a better understanding of the resistance and virulence capabilities of A. baumannii, medium to high-throughput screens are undertaken. The aims are the identification of new antibiotic, antiresistance or antivirulence compounds that are active against the majority of the current multidrug-resistant clinical isolates of A. baumannii. Efficient screening approaches using population and single-cell levels analyses, with and without a priori, are implemented directly on the bacteria themselves, or using a host-pathogen interaction context.

​​​Job openings
​​As our projects do have multidisciplinary aspects, applicants are welcome to propose their own research approaches and methodologies, which are still related to the main lab interests.
Master students are encouraged to send their application (Motivation letter and CV).

The Van der Henst Lab is also welcoming motivated PhD students and Postdoc fellows who are willing to apply for their own funding schemes. Possible funding sources are listed below:
    - HFSP



Molecular insights into Vibrio cholerae's intra-amoebal host-pathogen interactions.Van der Henst Charles Vanhove Audrey Sophie Drebes Dörr Natália Carolina Stutzmann Sandrine Stoudmann Candice Clerc Stéphanie Scrignari Tiziana Maclachlan Catherine Knott Graham Blokesch MelanieNature Communications, 9, 3460, 2018
An intracellular replication niche for Vibrio cholerae in the amoeba Acanthamoeba castellanii.Van der Henst Charles Scrignari Tiziana Maclachlan Catherine Blokesch MelanieISME Journal, 10, 897-910, 2016
Detecting envelope stress by monitoring ß-barrel assembly.Cho Seung-Hyun Szewczyk Joanna Pesavento Christina Zietek Matylda Banzhaf Manuel Roszczenko Paula Asmar Abir Laloux Géraldine Hov Ann-Kristin Leverrier Pauline Van der Henst Charles Vertommen Didier Typas Athanasios Collet Jean-FrançoisCELL, 159, 1652-64, 2014
The Brucella pathogens are polarized bacteria.Van der Henst Charles de Barsy Marie Zorreguieta Angeles Letesson Jean-Jacques De Bolle XavierMICROBES AND INFECTION, 15, 998-1004, 2013
The histidine kinase PdhS controls cell cycle progression of the pathogenic alphaproteobacterium Brucella abortus.Van der Henst Charles Beaufay François Mignolet Johann Didembourg Christian Colinet Julien Hallet Bernard Letesson Jean-Jacques De Bolle XavierJOURNAL OF BACTERIOLOGY, 194, 5305-14, 2012

Job openings

Charles Van der Henst

Charles Van der Henst

Research area(s)


PhD: UNamur, Molecular and Cellular Biology (2012, Namur, BE)
Postdoctoral Fellow: UCL, de Duve Institue, Bacterial stress response (2012, Bruxelles, BE)
Postdoctoral Fellow: EPFL, Global Health Institute, (2013, Lausanne, CH)
Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow: UNamur, Antimicrobial resistances and drug discovery (2018, Namur, BE)
Group leader (Junior), VIB-VUB Center for Structural Biology, (2020, Bruxelles, BE)

Contact Info

VIB-VUB Center for Structural BiologyBuilding EPleinlaan 2 1050 BRUSSELRoute description