Molecular Cell Physiology

This laboratory has chosen yeast as an experimental model for its work on cellular physiology.

Yeast is currently the organism that lends itself best to research into the basic finely-tuned intricate mechanisms of cell operation. It has been demonstrated that these mechanisms are similar in all cells, including human cells, and that any deterioration can cause serious illnesses in humans.

Yeast was also the first nonbacterial organism of which the genome was completely sequenced. This major breakthrough was the starting-point for the pioneering development of two new research fields which re now thriving - genomics and proteomics - where genetics, biochemistry, bioinformatics and robotics are combined to determine the role of all the genes and proteins of a living organism.

The laboratory has contributed significantly to the sequencing of the yeast genome and now applies genomic techniques - including DNA biochips - and proteomic techniques to study protein interaction networks.

More precisely, the research work concerns the proteins of the plasma membrane involved in the detection and transport of extracellular molecules.

Researchers working in the laboratory recently introduced into yeast the human genes that code for the proteins of the rhesus blood group. They were thus able to discover the function of these proteins. They are in fact ammonium carriers, a category of proteins that had for a long time been unknown but which play a vital role in buffering excess acidity of blood plasma in the urine.

The work of the group is of course of interest to the medical sector. However, its research can also be applied in the brewing and fermentation industry. In fact, the yeast transport proteins studied by the laboratory play a determining role in the synthesis and excretion of flavours in fermentation processes.