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Inês Cardoso Pereira Lab

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We investigate the metabolic pathways for energy production in anaerobic microorganisms that are relevant to health and the environment, and explore their biotechnological applications.

Inês Cardoso Pereira
Investigador Principal
PhD 1993, Oxford University, UK

Phone (+351) 214469327 | Extension 1327



Research Interests

Microorganisms are the main players in the biogeochemical cycling of elements that sustains Life in our planet. Over the history of Earth microbial metabolism led to profound changes in the redox conditions of the planet, the most dramatic of which was the gradual oxygenation of the atmosphere that set the stage for the appearance of multicellular eukaryotes. In the early Earth the atmosphere was anoxic and the first living organisms lived by anaerobic respiration, a type of bioenergetic metabolism in which an organic or inorganic compound is used as terminal electron acceptor instead of oxygen. Nowadays, an astounding number of microorganisms also live in anoxic or microoxic environments like sediments or the human/animal gut, where they play essential roles in the ecosystem and our health.

The recent revolution of omics, meta-omics and imaging studies has provided a giant leap forward in our understanding of “who is where, doing what and how”, making these very exciting times in the study of Environmental Microbiology. These advances go hand-in-hand with a much better appreciation of how environment-microbe, microbe-microbe and host-microbe interactions operate, giving us new tools to exploit these interactions for Health, Environmental and Biotechnological Applications.

The BEM group studies environmental microorganisms that grow by Anaerobic Respiration. We have focused mainly on investigating the bioenergetic processes that enable a large group of bacteria to respire sulfur compounds (like sulfate and sulfite). These bacteria are ancient organisms that are nowadays ubiquitously found in the environment and in animal guts. They play a key role in the biogeochemical cycles of Sulfur and Carbon, because sulfate is such a highly abundant anion in the environment (accumulating in the oceans). In addition, reduction of sulfate to hydrogen sulfide, and associated pyrite (FeS2) buryal, is a process that has an important contribution to the oxygenation of the atmosphere over geological timescales. For these reasons sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) have a huge impact on the biogeochemistry of our planet. In the gut, these bacteria and closely associated sulfide-producing organisms are normal members of the colonic flora, but can have a pro-inflammatory role that may lead to colitis, inflammatory bowel diseases and cancer in genetically susceptible individuals.

The main lines of research in the BEM lab are:

  1. Study of the sulfur metabolism in sulfate/sulfite reducing bacteria, including investigating the role of membrane complexes and other proteins in the metabolic network of sulfate respiration
  2. Engineering enzymes with biotechnological relevance for H2 production/oxidation and CO2 reduction.
  3. Explore biotechnological applications of anaerobic microorganisms namely in bio-hydrogen production and bioremediation of persistent pollutants.
  4. Study the metabolic pathways used by sulfide producing organisms in the gut, and how they interact with the host and other members of the microbiota.

Group Members

  • Mónica Martins Neves, Post-Doc
  • Sofia S. Venceslau, Post-Doc
  • Américo Duarte, Post-Doc
  • Sónia Zacarias, PhD student (with P. Matias)
  • Delfim Ferreira, PhD student
  • Ana Rita Oliveira, PhD student
  • Carla Mateus, PhD student
  • Ana Catarina Barbosa, PhD Student
  • Adriana Temporão, Graduate student (with P. Matias)


Selected Publications

  1. Marques MC, Tapia C, Gutiérrez-Sanz O, Ramos AR, Keller KL, Wall JD, De Lacey AL, Matias PM, IAC Pereira IAC (2017) The direct role of selenocysteine in [NiFeSe] hydrogenase maturation and catalysis. Nature Chemical Biology, online 20 March 2017, doi:10.1038/nchembio.2335 [Full Text]

  2. Santos A*, Venceslau SS*, Grein F, Leavitt WD, Dahl C, Johnston DT and Pereira IAC (2015) A protein trisulfide couples dissimilatory sulfate reduction to energy conservation. Science 350, 1541
    [Abstract] [Reprint] [Full Text]

  3. Rabus R, Venceslau SS, Wöhlbrand L, Voordouw G, Wal JDl and Pereira IAC (2015) A Post-Genomic View of the Ecophysiology, Catabolism and Biotechnological Relevance of Sulphate-Reducing Prokaryotes. Adv. Microb. Physiol. 66, pp. 55-321.


Laboratory's Website

For further information please visit the laboratory's website


Metabolismo Energético Bacteriano (PT)

O laboratório de Metabolismo Energético Bacteriano estuda o metabolismo de bactérias modelo que produzem energia pela respiração de compostos orgânicos ou inorgânicos, em vez de oxigénio. Nestes organismos os processos de respiração celular são muito diferentes dos organismos aeróbios. Em particular, investigamos as bases moleculares dos processos que permitem a um grande grupo de bactérias respirar compostos de enxofre (como sulfato e sulfito). Estas bactérias são organismos ancestrais que existiam muito antes do aparecimento do oxigénio na Terra, e que se encontram disseminadas no ambiente, (incluindo os intestinos de mamíferos). São organismos relevantes em diversas áreas como Bioremediação, Produção Biológica de Hidrogénio, Células de Combustível Biológicas, Biocorrosão e Tratamento de Esgotos. O estudo do metabolismo respiratório destes organismos é essencial para uma adequada exploração do seu potencial biotecnológico, e também para um melhor contrôle da sua actividade biológica, incluindo os seus potenciais efeitos adversos a nível ambiental e de saúde.


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