Trypanosoma brucei is not only the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness and Nagana, a related animal disease, in sub-Saharan Africa, but has also emerged as valuable model organism to study eukaryote biology. Several processes discovered in trypanosomes have later been found to represent general biological events.
The main focus of our research is on:
- The identification and characterization of lipid biosynthetic pathways in T. brucei, in particular the reactions leading to production of phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylglycerol and cardiolipin.
- The identification and characterization of membrane transporters in T. brucei for lipid precursors, amino acids and ion channels, and on transporters involved in the action of trypanocidal drugs.
- The elucidation of the molecular mechanisms involved in N-linked glycan transport (flipping) from the cytoplasmic to the luminal side of the endoplasmic reticulum, using T. brucei as model organism.
- The study of the mechanism involved in rhodopsin-mediated ATP-independent lipid flip-flop across phospholipid bilayers. The mechanism is key to understanding lipid homeostasis in the retina, with implications for retinitis pigmentosa, a group of retinal degenerative diseases marked by loss of rod photoreceptor cells.
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