Project number 7

Discovery of novel sensor metabolites with regulatory function in higher eukaryotes

Metabolites comprise a large fraction of cellular components and participate in a variety of biochemical pathways. They are present in a broad concentration range and can also act as messengers; e.g. as sensors that regulate flux through metabolic pathways that are important for growth, development and interaction with the environment. Higher eukaryotic organisms can synthesize over 5,000 different metabolites, most of them with yet unknown function. Interestingly, several intriguing, often serendipitous findings point to a crucial role of metabolite sensor mechanisms in the regulation of diverse processes. However, the identity and the mode of action of only a small number of such metabolite biosensors are known. The goal of this project is to identify novel sensor metabolites and elucidate their mode of action, in particular in tomato, to study the molecular processes that steer fruit development and the biosynthesis of bioactive, health-promoting molecules.
The candidate will first carry out cutting-edge nucleus-specific metabolomics profiling to identify metabolites with a possible sensor role. To elucidate their mode of action, a small set of candidate sensor metabolites will then be applied to tomato cells, which will be subsequently analysed via RNA-sequencing, differential proteomics and thermal proteome profiling. Finally, in depth functional analysis of proteins potentially involved in the signal transduction cascade triggered by the sensor metabolite will be performed.
This project will unite the expertise in metabolomics, next-generation sequencing and genetic engineering at PSB and in thermal proteome profiling and functional protein analysis at MBC. The project targets a 50/50 work distribution between the two labs. The Goossens and Gevaert labs have a history of collaborative research using cutting-edge proteomics and interactomics technologies to study signal transduction in plants.

Keywords
next-generation sequencing, nuclear metabolomics, signal transduction, thermal proteome profiling, tomato

Supervisors
Alain Goossens, VIB Dept. of Plant Systems Biology, UGent, Gent
Kris Gevaert, VIB Medical Biotechnology Center, UGent, Gent