We are interested in the development of research lines in which fundamental research leads to practical biotechnological applications. We have two main research lines: nutrient sensing and signal transduction in Candida albicans, and trehalose metabolism and stress tolerance in plants.
The first and largest subgroup is focusing on nutrient sensing and signal transduction pathways in the human fungal pathogens Candida albicans and Candida glabrata. Our main focus goes to the cAMP-PKA pathway, but other glucose or amino acids-induced pathways are also under investigation. A strong focus is on methionine and how this amino acid affects morphogenesis, an important virulence factor. In order to study these pathways we are developing genome-wide Candida specific protein-protein interaction tools, including FRET based biosensors.
Over the last few years we have become a very strong group studying biofilms of Candida sp. Biofilms form a major problem in hospitals as more and more patients receive various implants which are ideal substrates to attach to and to form a biofilm. We have developed an in vivo subcutaneous rodent model system and we have used this model to test anti-biofilm drugs and we are currently investigating the effect of biofilms on the host immune system. We will also use the model system to identify genes that are specifically required under in vivo conditions. We also screen for novel antifungals (e.g. using collections of essential oils) and their anti-biofilm activity will be tested in the in vivo system.
Finally, we are also working on antifungal drug resistance as this is already but will become a major problem in the near future. The most used drug, fluconazole, is fungistatic and this characteristic allows the rapid appearance of resistance. We have now identified the major reason why Candida cells are tolerant to fluconazole and this allows us to screen for novel compounds that together with fluconazole would result in a fungicidal combination. Unraveling the molecular mechanism will also result in major breakthroughs in our understanding of tolerance to drugs.
The second subgroup is working on plant trehalose metabolism. Trehalose is known for its stress protecting characteristics. Despite the very low trehalose levels in plants, they express 21 genes (in Arabidopsis) that show homology to microbial trehalose biosynthesis enzymes. On the one hand we want to understand the role of these genes in plant development and stress tolerance. We are using various strategies to use trehalose metabolism in order to generate plants with a better stress tolerance.
The antifungal caspofungin increases fluoroquinolone activity against Staphylococcus aureus biofilms by inhibiting N-acetylglucosamine transferaseSiala W, Kucharikova S, Braem A, Vleugels J, Tulkens P, Mingeot-Leclercq M, Van Dijck P, Van Bambeke FNature Communications, 7, 13286, 2016 Duplication of a promiscuous transcription factor drives the emergence of a new regulatory networkPugach K, Voet A, Kondrashov F, Voordeckers K, Christiaens J, Baying B, Benes V, Sakai R, Aerts J, Zhu B, Van Dijck P, Verstrepen KNature Communications, 5, 4868, 2014
03/11/2016 - Françoise Van Bambeke’s teams from the Louvain Drug Research Institute of UCL and Patrick Van Dijck’s teams from VIB and KU Leuven are opening up a new path in treating serious infections which affect patients in hospital.
09/10/2015 - Patrick Van Dijck (VIB/KU Leuven) received the Best Paper Award 2015 during the Annual Meeting of the Botanical Society in Niigata City, Japan.
Patrick Van Dijck
PhD: Univ. of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium, 1991
VIB Group leader since 1997