Joris Messens Lab

Research focus

The mission of the Redox Signaling Lab is to decipher how cells sense redox metabolites and transduce stimuli into downstream biological effects. Hydrogen peroxide The mission of the Redox Signaling Lab is to decipher how cells sense redox metabolites and transduce stimuli into downstream biological effects. Hydrogen peroxide is a central redox metabolite, which participates in signaling through directly or indirectly oxidizing cysteines with an effect on the protein’s function and/or conformation. Knowledge of the mechanisms by which oxidative sensors and transducers function are invaluable in understanding how redox homeostasis pathways can be engineered with the ultimate goal to improve oxidative stress resistance in plants and to identify therapeutic targets in redox diseases.
Cancer a redox disease
Redox metabolism is central to cancer progression. Cancer cells are known to produce more reactive oxygen species (ROS), but at the same time are more sensitive to oxidative stress compared to normal cells. During metastasis, cancer cells dramatically change their cellular redox environment. To survive these changes, cancer cells develop effective protection mechanisms that aid adaptation to various types of environmental conditions. As such, many cancers express high amounts of antioxidant enzymes, such as the peroxiredoxins (Prxs). Prxs are highly efficient peroxide scavenging enzymes, and recently it has been shown that Prxs are also able to transfer the peroxide signal to the less reactive regulatory proteins. Our long-term objective is to explore and eventually manipulate the protein scaffolding system which supports Prx-mediated peroxide signalling, and to develop sensitive protein-based redox and metabolite indicator tools.

 Organellar redox signalling in plants
To coordinate responses to environmental stimuli, plant cells need to communicate the metabolic state between different organelles. This requires signalling pathways and messenger molecules such as Ca2+ ions or hydrogen peroxide as well as metabolites and plant hormones. These signalling pathways connect subcellular compartments, linking for example chloroplasts to the nucleus, or peroxisomes to chloroplasts thereby enabling physical routes for signalling by metabolite exchange or even protein translocation. Today, we know that hydrogen peroxide can initiate various signaling circuits, but a long journey remains towards a fully-characterized H2O2 signaling (perceiving, transduction and regulation) map. Our research aims to contribute to one of the key questions in plant cell biology: “How are the different organellar signaling events orchestrated to face environmental stresses and promote plant survival?”

This part of my research is supported by EOS funding (FWO).

Central role of hydrogen peroxide in sensing, signaling and regulation


Arabidopsis thaliana dehydroascorbate reductase 2: Conformational flexibility during catalysisBodra N* Young D* Rosado L Pallo A Wahni K De Proft F Huang J Van Breusegem F Messens JScientific Reports, 7, 42494, 2017* These authors contributed equally
SHORT-ROOT Deficiency Alleviates the Cell Death Phenotype of the Arabidopsis catalase2 Mutant under Photorespiration-Promoting ConditionsWaszczak C* Kerchev P* Mühlenbock P Hoeberichts F Van Der Kelen K M'hamdi A Willems P Denecker J Kumpf R Noctor G Messens J Van Breusegem FPLANT CELL, 28, 1844-59, 2016* These authors contributed equally
The active site architecture in peroxiredoxins: a case study on Mycobacterium tuberculosis AhpEPedre B, van Bergen L, Pallo A, Rosado L, Tamu Dufe V, Van Molle I, Wahni K, Erdogan H, Alonso M, De Proft F, Messens JCHEMICAL COMMUNICATIONS, 52, 10293-6, 2016
Revisiting sulfur H-bonds in proteins: The example of peroxiredoxin AhpEVan Bergen L* Alonso M* Pallo A Nilsson L De Proft F* Messens J*Scientific Reports, 6, 30369, 2016* These authors contributed equally
Corynebacterium diphtheriae Methionine Sulfoxide Reductase A Exploits a Unique Mycothiol Redox Relay MechanismTossounian M, Pedre B, Wahni K, Erdogan H, Vertommen D, Van Molle I, Messens JJOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, 290, 11365-75, 2015

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Biologists discover bacterial defense mechanism against aggressive oxygen

19/11/2009 - ​Bacteria possess an ingenious mechanism for preventing oxygen from harming the building blocks of the cell. This is the new finding of a team of biologists.

Joris Messens

Joris Messens

Research area(s)

Model organism(s)


​PhD: John Moores University of Liverpool, UK, 2003
VIB Group Leader: since 2012

Contact Info

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