Daniël Van Damme - T-Rex

Daniël Van DammeDaniel Van Damme was born in Ghent, Belgium in 1978. He obtained his master degree at the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University in 2001 and a PhD in Science: Biotechnology, at the Faculty of Science at Ghent University in 2006. Between 2006 and 2015, he received two FWO postdoctoral mandates as well as an assistant professorship mandate from the Department of Plant Biotechnology and Bioinformatics at Ghent University and was appointed as Expert Scientist in Advanced Live Cell Imaging at the VIB Department of Plant Systems Biology where he currently holds a Principal Investigator position.

His research interest concerns the interplay between how plants determine the orientation of their divisions to shape their three dimensional body plan, what the contribution of membrane trafficking is to establish and maintain division plane orientation and how endocytosis mechanistically functions in higher plant cells.  His cell-biological and live cell imaging-oriented research takes advantage of the available tools in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana combined with the high spatiotemporal resolving power of imaging dividing tobacco Bright Yellow-2 (BY-2) culture cells and Physcomitrella patens moss cells. He recently obtained an ERC Consolidator grant (Tplate REcycling compleX; T-REX) to investigate how endocytosis is orchestrated in plants. The aims of this project are to elucidate the structural composition of the TPLATE endocytic complex, to identify its cargo proteins and how this novel adaptor complex functions both independently as well as cooperatively with the evolutionary conserved AP-2 adaptor protein complex to drive clathrin-mediated endocytosis in plants.



Clathrin-mediated endocytosis in plants: mechanistic insight into the TPLATE REcycling compleX and its interplay with AP-2 (T-Rex)

Cells communicate with the outside world through proteins anchored in their plasma membrane and hereto constantly adjust their plasma membrane (PM) proteome. In this adjustment process, removing proteins from the PM mainly occurs through clathrin-mediated endocytosis (CME). Mechanistically however, this essential process remains poorly understood in plants.

T-RexIn contrast to the previous belief that the mechanism of CME is highly conserved in all eukaryotes, a recent study from my group identified the TPLATE complex (TPC) as a novel adaptor complex regulating CME. The TPC is evolutionary retained in plants while lost, or non-functional anymore, in other eukaryotes. In the same study, we also show that both the TPC and the conserved Adaptor Protein 2 complex (AP-2) have overlapping but also independent functions in driving CME in plants, implying that plants use multiple ways to recognize membrane proteins (cargo) for internalization.

The current project will use an integrative approach to unravel the early steps of CME in plants. Specifically, the focus lies on cargo recognition by the TPLATE complex and on the spatio-temporal dynamic PM recruitment of the TPC subunits versus other effectors of endocytosis. Next to that, novel tools will be developed to acutely disrupt TPC functioning which is required to monitor the immediate effects on endocytosis. Finally, the structural organization of the octameric TPC as well as the role of certain domains present in its subunits will be unravelled to gain insight into how this complex operates.

Answering these questions requires to combine state-of-the art proteomics with highly dynamic multi-color live cell imaging and structural biology, including protein crystallization and single particle structural EM analysis. The proteomics experiments will run in close collaboration with the labs of Prof. Geert De Jaeger (VIB/UGent) and Prof. Kris Gevaert (VIB/Ugent). The structural aspects of this project will run in close collaboration with the labs of Dr. Rouslan Efremov (VIB/VUB) and Prof. Savvas Savvides (VIB/UGent).

The overall objective is to gain a deep mechanistic insight into the developmentally essential process of CME in plants. This will enable to specifically modulate the abundance of plasma membrane proteins involved in nutrient uptake, toxin avoidance, cell wall formation but also hormone and defence responses. Understanding TPC-dependent CME will also provide insight into evolutionary aspects of endocytosis.