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Exploring and exploiting bacterial protein glycosylation systems

PhD ceremony:Ms L. (Liubov) Yakovlieva
When:July 06, 2021
Supervisors:prof. dr. M.T.C. (Marthe) Walvoort, prof. dr. ir. A.J. (Adriaan J) Minnaard
Where:Academy building RUG
Exploring and exploiting bacterial protein glycosylation systems

Sugars are fascinating and highly diverse molecules with a myriad of roles in all living cells. Importantly, bacteria often utilize sugars in their infection strategies. They are found on the surface of bacterial cells as parts of the larger structures responsible for movement, protection, adhesion, camouflage and interactions with the host immune system. In addition, sugars also decorate the biomolecules inside the cell, influencing their properties and functions, keeping the bacterial cell running. 

Interestingly, bacterial sugars are frequently distinctly different from human, which means that we can potentially target infectious bacteria using these sugars without damaging our own systems. In the projects described in this thesis, the production systems of important sugar structures from infectious bacteria were investigated and their mechanism studied in detail. For example, in one project, it was elucidated how surface adhesion molecules are decorated with multiple sugars and how to manipulate this process. In another project, it was uncovered why only specific proteins are decorated with a rare bacterial sugar. 

With these findings, our understanding of bacterial sugar systems and their roles in infection was expanded. Additionally, by uncovering parts of the mechanism, useful knowledge was gained for developing molecules that can efficiently and selectively block these processes.