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New Marie Curie Grant for ITQB

Project aims to study cellular respiration

Oeiras, 17.10.12

In the last five years, ITQB researchers have secured eight individual Marie Curie Grants within the FP7 People Program. In 2012, Afonso Duarte, now at the Biological Energy Transduction Lab, joins this list with a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant. With a budget of 62.500 euros for the next two and a half years, the project aims to develop a novel methodology for studying proteins involved in cellular energy production.

Afonso Duarte studied food biochemistry at Universidade de Aveiro. In 2003, he moved to Wageningen (The Netherlands), where he obtained his PhD in Structural Biology. In 2007, he joined Stefan Rudiger’s group in Utrecht to develop new methods to monitor protein dynamics mechanism of action. Recently Afonso Duarte moved to ITQB, to the Biological Energy Transduction Lab headed by Manuela Pereira, as a FCT PostDoc fellow. Afonso Duarte is now focusing on the mechanism of ion transport required in cellular respiration.

The Marie Curie Career Integration Grants aim to support scientific excellence and competiveness in Europe and are selected in an open competition through transparent, independent peer review. The motivation behind the program is to assist new researchers establish themselves in one of the countries participating in its FP7 program. The grant supports research projects from experienced researchers worldwide.


Project Abstract

Cell membranes provide compartmentalization and allow cells to keep their physical-chemistry balance. Ion transport across cell membranes is vital for life, establishing and maintaining a difference of electrochemical potential. From the biosynthesis of energy to the transport of solutes, ion transport is central to the energy transduction process.

One of key players in the energy transduction process is the respiratory Complex I (NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase. This membrane domain of Complex I has three homologous antiporter subunits where the proton channels are proposed to be located. Recently, new results indicate that Complex I from different bacteria are also able to transport H+ and Na+ in opposite directions. This data prompt the debate on the atomic mechanism behind such antiporter subunits and how such process can be regulated.

The aim of this project is to provide the missing piece of behind the antiporter subunits puzzling mechanism. To approach such task two objectives have been draw: a) decipher the mechanism of ion transport of the antiporter subunits of Complex I at atomic level, b) unravel the how the regulation and control of ion transport is performed in Complex I antiporter subunits
To pursue these objectives a novel sample preparation methodology to perform NMR spectroscopy of membrane proteins will be setup. This experimental setup will combine recent advances in cell-free expression system of membrane proteins with nanodisc technology, providing the antiporter subunits a native membrane like environment to perform solution NMR.To follow ion transport, the antiporter subunits will be selectively isotopic labelled and the NMR spectra will be monitored for changes upon ion transport. These changes will provide a map of the ion channel in the antiporter subunits and how this transport is regulated.

Previous ITQB awardees (individual Marie Curie Fellowships)

  • Luis Jaime Mota (2008)
    Analysis of the cellular function of type III secretion effectors of Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Olga Iranzo (2008)
    Designing metallopeptides for the removal of superoxide radicals (MFRosPep)
  • Pedro Domingos (2008)
    ER Stress and Photoreceptor Degeneration in Drosophila (DROSOERSTRESS)
  • Ana Belen Estevez (2009)
    Crystallization in ionic liquid solutions (CRYSTILS)
  • Magdalena Kowacz (2009)
    New halogenated ionic liquids as a novel task-specific fluids (HALOGENLIS)
  • Marco Patrone (2009)
    Structure of herperviral cell access (SHerpA)
  • Michal Malecki (2009)
    Spatial organization and dynamics of Escherichia coli RNA degradation machinery (RNaseDYNAMICS)
  • Elin Moe (2012)
    The role of Base Excision Repair (BER) for extreme radiation and desiccation resistance of Deinococcus radiodurans



Text updated with corrections on 18.10.12




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