Small-Molecule Signalling

The aims of Dr. Aleksandra Skirycz's group are the identification and functional characterization of novel signaling and regulatory small molecules by studying protein-metabolite interactions.

Venturing into terra incognita of protein small molecule interactions using combination of novel and classical approaches

The significance of a cell-wide understanding of molecular complexes is of pivotal importance to comprehend life. Protein–metabolite interactions (PMIs) have received little interest in the past; technological progress has been causing this to gradually change.

“The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope”.  —John Buchan

For us, the most interesting interactions are between ligand and receptor, the triggers of signaling events. While the number of small molecules with proven or proposed regulatory roles is rapidly growing, the lion's share of their protein receptors remains unknown. Conversely, there are numerous signalling proteins with predicted ligand-binding domains, the identity of the small-molecule counterparts of which remains elusive. The identification of such regulatory PMIs stands at the core of this project. In this research we use Arabidopsis (cell cultures and plants), tobacco and yeast; our technological platform, however, is applicable to other organisms.

Recently we developed simple yet effective in vivo method for global detection of small molecules bound to proteins guided by co-fractionation. Through combination of size filtration with size exclusion chromatography (SEC) our protocol facilitates the unbiased prediction of protein-metabolite interactions in a cell-wide manner without the need of protein or metabolite baits. A map of the protein‒metabolite complexes obtained from SEC experiments assisted in the selection of novel PMIs, now being examined by targeted approaches.

Team and Scientific Interest

Dr. Aleksandra Skirycz (Group Leader)

Dr. Monika Kosmacz (Post-Doc)  -  3’ 5’-cAMP and 2’ 3’-cAMP characterization, and stress granule biology

Dr. Ewelina Sokolowska (Post-Doc)  -  charge of the proteomics platform, small-molecules involved in plant-microbe interactions

Dr. Juan Camilo Moreno Beltran (Post-Doc)  -  interested in dipeptides signaling/regulation

Dr. Marcin Luzarowski (Post-Doc)  -  small-molecule regulation of yeast metabolism

Dennis Schlossarek (PhD)  -  small-molecule regulation of yeast cell cycle

Izabela Kasprzyk (PhD)  -  interested in dipeptides signaling/regulation



•  Mass spectrometry based metabolomics

•  Mass spectrometry based proteomics

•  Size exclusion chromatography for the cell wide predictions of protein-metabolite complexes

•  Affinity chromatography for fishing out protein partners of the small molecules immobilized on the agarose resins

•  Tandem affinity chromatography for fishing out small molecules partners of tagged proteins

•  CETSA/Thermal Proteome Profiling 

•  Micro-scale thermophoresis

Possible applications

The identification of heretofore unknown PMIs carries the potential to revolutionize the existing knowledge of small-molecule signaling. In a manner analogous to biomedical research, this knowledge could be used to modulate signaling pathways, and hence plant physiology, using chemicals designed to target protein receptors. Technological pipeline developed in the lab is directly transferable to drug and herbicide research (see e.g. Skirycz et al., 2016; Trends in Biotechnology)


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