Federal Centre for Complexity and Exobiology

About COEX









Free University of Brussels (VUB), Ultrastructure department

Address: Building E 4 th floor, Pleinlaan 2, 1050 Brussels , Belgium
Contact person: Ingrid Zegers


Today, the analysis of the structure-function relation of proteins requires an input of a wide range of mutually enforcing technologies. We devoted the last decade to establish a multidisciplinary team that masters protein engineering, protein purification, enzymology, calorimerty, fluorimetry, crystallography, interferometry, surface plasma resonance and now also atomic force microscopy.

In the context of microgravity science the Dept. Ultrastructure coordinates, together with the ULB and the LEC from Granada , an international research team that is responsible for the development of space hardware and research in the field of protein crystal growth.
Research Projects

Our group uses structural biology to complement an interdisciplinary research program that addresses fundamental structure-function relationships in the context of important biological questions often with relevance towards medicine and biotechnology. Well established projects in the group in the areas of plasmid addiction systems, protein-carbohydrate recognition and bacterial fimbrial adhesion, structural epitope mapping of camel antibody VHH domains, and structural enzymology (nucleoside hydrolases from several pathogens, arsenate reductase from S. aureus, ATCases from thermophilic organisms and the arg7 yeast ornithine acetyltransferase) have so far yielded invaluable answers to a number of questions and are paving the way to ongoing and future studies. Recent new directions in the laboratory focus on the HIV drug target integrase, and on proteins from the Xcp type II secretion systems in Gram-negative bacteria. The latter project promises to shed light into an essential virulence factor of bacterial pathogenesis, and has been initiated at a time when a plethora of microbiological and biochemical studies need structural insights.

Research in the field of protein behaviour at high concentrations (protein crystallisation, aggregation, fibril formation) is developing. This research includes fundamental research of the underlying processes in microgravity experiments, bioinformatics studies of the relationship between protein sequence and properties, andmore physico-chemical studies using dynamic light scattering, Atomic Force Microscopy, and interferometry.


Other (Public outreach, conferences, equipments ...)

  1. Organisation of conferences on protein structure and function
  2. Responsibility for the protein crystallography experiments at DUBBLE, the Belgian/Dutch beamline at Grenoble
  3. Coordination of Belgian teams involved in microgravity experiments on protein crystallisation
  4. Equipment and techniques: X-ray crystallography, Atomic Force Microscopy, Dynamic Light Scattering, molecular biology, protein engineering, …
  5. Public relations aspects of microgravity experiments
  6. Logistics of space experiments


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