Petra Van Damme group

Research focus

The aim of our research is to better our understanding of bacterial infection biology. Deep sequencing has enabled the study of gene expression at the transcript level. However, the depth of sequencing has so far proven to be unsatisfactory in case of the bacterial pathogen in an infection context. Moreover, the study of bacterial proteome changes upon infection remains highly unexplored because of the higher proteome complexity of the host cell compared to the pathogen. These challenges clearly stress the need for novel strategies based on complementary proteogenomics approaches that can enable protein translation studies of bacterial pathogens in a host context.

Recent findings of our research team revealed translation of numerous previously unidentified (small) open reading frames and expression of alternative N-terminal proteoforms when studying bacterial translation. Therefore, the group is exploring the repertoire of bacterial proteoforms employed to establish a successful interaction with its host cell. For this, the research team develops and applies a complementary cutting-edge riboproteogenomic toolset which will enable, for the first time, targeted systematic genome- and proteome-wide surveys of bacterial transcriptional and translational activity during actual host cell infection. By exploiting this proteogenomics toolset in combination with molecular biology, genetics, cell biological and cell physiological approaches, the team strives to obtain answers to intriguing fundamental questions of host/pathogen interactions. Further, the identification of new pathogen virulence factors will contribute to the development of innovative therapeutics and diagnostics for multiple models of infectious diseases.

Publications of Petra Van Damme