Streptococcus pneumoniae cell biology

Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of the most important human pathogens. New strategies targeting this pathogen that aim to prevent or cure disease are therefore needed. We want to contribute to the development of novel antibacterial therapies by first building a better understanding of how the S. pneumoniae cell cycle is regulated. To do so, we use a combination of genetic approaches and molecular cell biology. We hope that our efforts will reveal novel bacterial vulnerabilities that can be exploited for the design of new antimicrobials.

Cell cycle regulation

Even bacteria - arguably the simplest organisms on earth - are far from being completely understood. Although we have a rather detailed view of how important cell cycle processes (such as DNA replication, chromosome segregation, cell division, …) proceed, our knowledge on how these different processes are regulated and coordinated lags behind. In our group, we want to explore the regulatory mechanisms that govern cell cycle progression and coordinate different processes to each other in the emerging model organism S. pneumoniae.

Stress responses

Bacterial growth and cell cycle progression is almost exclusively studied under ideal growth conditions in the lab. However, such perfect conditions are far removed from the clinical and environmental reality that bacteria have to face. In reality, bacteria often experience stressful conditions that heavily influence their growth and physiology. We aim to characterize the stress responses launched by S. pneumoniae in a variety of adverse conditions to explore how S. pneumoniae regulates growth in such suboptimal environments.

Bacterial small GTPases

All bacteria identified to date encode a set of small GTPases that are essential for viability and for which indications exist that they serve as important cell cycle regulators. However, despite their conservation and importance, the exact cellular function of these GTPases remains unknown. We aim to thoroughly characterize the molecular role of these proteins in the regulation of the cell cycle of S. pneumoniae and other bacteria. We want to know what the essential function of these enigmatic proteins is and how their activity is adjusted based on their nucleotide-binding state.