Biological Sciences Research Group (BSRG)

 

Established in 1991, the Biological Sciences Research Group (BSRG) develops research activities in the fields of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Microbial Biotechnology, and Functional and Comparative Genomics and Bioinformatics. Ongoing interdisciplinary programs involve molecular biosciences across disciplines, from molecules to systems, to understand how biological systems orchestrate multiple functions, envisaging the exploitation/control of their activities in Industrial, Health, Environmental and Agro-Food Biotechnology. BSRG aims to create biosciences-based solutions to societal problems, providing useful services to society by combining R&D activities with advanced education.

 

BSRG team includes 9 Principal Investigators and 9 post-doctoral researchers, Research strategies explore the interface between “omics” analyses and molecular and cellular biology research to provide an integrated view of gene/genomic expression, cellular signalling, and metabolic networks, allowing a unified perspective of key scientific questions in Biotechnology and Biomedicine.

 

In the field of Bacterial Pathogenesis and Pathogenomics, activities involve the systematic surveillance of Burkholderia cepacia complex (Bcc) bacteria respiratory infections at the major Portuguese cystic fibrosis (CF) Centre, in Lisbon, allowing retrospective studies aiming to elucidate the global adaptive mechanisms employed by Bcc bacteria to persist in the CF lungs during long-term infection. Studies also aim to uncover virulence mechanisms and potential targets to develop new anti-Bcc therapeutics, in particular those involving virulence-associated adhesins and small non-coding regulatory RNAs. The expertise of the BSRG in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology of Gram-negative bacteria is also explored envisaging: i) the biosynthesis and engineering of exopolysaccharides of interest as microbial gums (e.g. gellan) or the understanding and control of bacteria-host interaction; ii) bioremediation of contaminated environments.

 

In the field of Yeast Biology and Toxicogenomics, the aim is to obtain mechanistic insights and a genome-wide view on the responses to chemicals and environmental alterations relevant in Environmental Health, Pharmacology and Biotechnology, using the eukaryotic model Saccharomyces cerevisiae to characterize new signalling pathways, understand and model gene regulatory networks under chemical stress, and identify molecular biomarkers of drug/toxicant exposure. This knowledge is essential to engineer more robust yeast strains able to cope with stresses occurring during biotechnological processes, to decipher weak acid tolerance mechanisms in acidic food spoilage yeasts (e.g. Zygosaccharomyces bailii), and to understand antifungal drug resistance in pathogenic Candida species. Research also involves the functional analysis of S. cerevisiae and C. glabrata multidrug/multixenobiotic resistance (MDR/MXR) membrane transporters and their link to the MDR/MXR phenomenon.

 

Although essentially focused on microbial cells, research also involves more complex eukaryotes. Caenorhabditis elegans and Galleria mellonella are used as infection models or for toxicity monitoring. Through external and internal collaborative research: i) the potential therapeutic application of bacterial products in cancer therapy is being examined; ii) yeast is being used as an eukaryotic model and expression host for the functional analysis of membrane transporters in the plant model Arabidopsis thaliana and in Oryza sativa, and to guide the design of more robust plants against agricultural relevant stresses; iii) important aspects of stem cell biology and response to cultivation conditions are being unveiled by expression proteomics.

 

The BSRG shares a 520 m2 work area, located in the 6th floor of the South Tower in the Alameda Campus of IST, 400 m2 of laboratories (9 research laboratories, including a licensed laboratory for handling radioactive compounds, a room for culture of human cell lines, a dark room, a cold room/4ºC, an incubation room/30ºC, and a teaching laboratory) Research laboratories are well equipped with the basic equipment available in reference laboratories working in the fields of microbiology, biochemistry and molecular and cellular microbiology. Equipment includes 2 scintillation counters, real time RT-PCR, a 2-DE-based quantitative proteomics platform (equipment for 2-DE, Typhoon laser scanner and specific software for fluorescent stained proteome gel detection and analysis).

 

 




 

 

Research Units