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Molecular mechanism of cell wall membrane proteins

The cell wall is a highly complex matrix important for bacteria survival. Membrane proteins are an essential part of its assembly machinery. Our research seeks to understand the molecular mechanism of this group of proteins.

The bacterial cell wall exerts important protective functions against host defenses and antibiotics. Its biosynthesis involves several processes including, transport of precursors, assembly of biopolymers, and multiple chemical modifications. These tasks are achieved by a well-coordinated protein machinery that includes many uncharacterized membrane proteins. We aim to elucidate the structure and function of cell wall membrane proteins by combining modern structural-biology, biochemical and biophysical methods.

Transport proteins
Many chemical components and precursors of the cell wall matrix are synthesized in the cytoplasm and therefore need to be translocated across the plasma membrane in order to arrive to their final destination. Membrane transporters that facilitate these processes can be classified in multiple categories including ion-coupled transporters, ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters and lipid flippases. Our research group is interested in understanding how this translocation processes take place at the molecular and atomic level.

Polymerases and transferases
Polymerases and transferases are essential proteins for the assembly of cell wall building blocks. Polymerases carry out the consecutive binding of chemical units of cell wall biopolymers, while transferases synthesize multiple essential precursors. The products of these reactions give shape to the cell wall matrix. We investigate the mechanism of membrane proteins carrying these reactions. Our research seeks to unravel novel molecular mechanisms and develop technological applications based on the function of these macromolecules.