The overarching theme of the research in the Membrane Bioenergetics Unit is focused on ‘energy and life’ exploring microbial physiology using classical microbiology and biochemistry, biomimetic membrane technologies and single-molecule biophysics. With this fundamental knowledge we investigate the adaptations of life to selective environmental pressures with particular focus on the function of the cell membrane, and the role of respiratory enzymes in health and disease.
This research is divided into these overlapping areas of interest:
1) Regulation and function of respiratory chain components. This broadens to the interplay between respiratory components within a bacterium and the affect on other bacteria or cells in the same environmental niche.
2) The role of metals in respiratory enzymes and their function in electron transfer
3) Protein-protein and protein-lipid interactions
4) Biomechanics of molecular motors
These are currently focused on (but not exclusive to) the following bacterial and parasite systems:
1) Escherichia coli – The most well described membrane bioenergetics thus far, and a genetically tractable pathogen. Yet…there is seemingly there is still a lot more to learn!
2) Alkaliphilic Bacteria: with a special focus on Caldalkalibacillus thermarum str. TA2.A1 – I have a longstanding interest in thermoalkaliphilic bacteria aerobic from an evolutionary and extreme adaptation point of view. I have personally described a great deal of its energetics.
3) Mycobacterium smegmatis – A model organism of Mycobacterium sp; a group with some of the most deadly diseases known to humankind. Studies with this also link into M. tuberculosis physiology. In collaboration with: Prof. Greg Cook (Otago, NZ) and Dr Dirk Bald (VU Amsterdam, NL).
4) Trypanosoma brucei – The cause of ‘Sleeping sickness’, a parasitic disease with some unique respiratory features. In collaboration with: Dr Achim Schaufner (Edinburgh, UK) and Dr Alena Zikova (South Bohemia, Cz).