GRAL’s research directions

GRAL scientists pursue two major lines of research:

1. Molecular Machines and Dynamics

A comprehensive analysis of molecular machines involved in conserved cellular and pathological processes:

(1) Virus host-pathogen interactions focus on major pathogenic enveloped viruses. Lead research areas cover replication machines and interaction with cellular complexes, membrane remodeling and budding, ribonucleoprotein complexes and long non-coding RNAs involved in the regulation of the viral life cycle and immune response, reverse vaccinology and innate immune factors.

(2) Bacterial and fungal host-pathogen interactions focus on pathogens responsible for nosocomial and antibiotic-resistant infections, a major public health problem and other life-threatening pathologies. Furthermore, we aim to understand the molecular machineries involved in cell wall synthesis, toxin secretion, biofilm formation, intracellular infection and virulence, and in phage assembly.

(3) Molecular complexes relevant for cancer and epigenetic regulation are as well of high priority.

Macromolecular assemblies and their dynamics are studied by NMR, X-ray crystallography, AFM, single molecule fluorescence technologies, neutron and X-ray scattering, native mass spectrometry techniques and molecular simulation using a wide range of model systems. Further focus will be concentrated on serial crystallography to produce molecular movies of chemical reactions, structures of iron-sulfur cluster driven chemical reactions under anaerobic conditions, and membrane protein transport and signalling.


2. Self-organization of Living systems

From molecular assembly to functional architecture.

One central property of living systems is their capacity to self-organize. We study the dynamic properties of self-organization during morphogenesis and the response to environmental cues in different organisms such as yeast, microalgae, flies, human cells or plants. For example, we study the dynamic assembly of cytoskeleton components, multimeric transcription factors under various developmental and environmental contexts, and the morphogenesis of subcellular compartments such as the chloroplast membranes (lipids and associated protein complexes) and the mitochondria. Beyond the single cell, we address the development of complex biofilm, infected cells, tissues, organoids and organs in bacterial, fungal, animal, microalgae and plant models. Living organisms continuously perceive and adapt to changes in their environment such as light, temperature, mechanical or chemical or biotic stresses. Thus, we analyze how these cues influence self-organization both at the protein level (post-translational modifications, folding of intrinsically disordered proteins metal or nucleic acid interactions) and at the cellular level.