Chantal Abergel

The structural team is currently focusing on large DNA viruses such as Mimivirus and PBCV. A comprehensive structural and functional study of selected genes products was initiated, as they may hold important clues about the origin of DNA viruses and on the mecanisms used by viruses to highjack the host cell to its own benefit.

We first focused on genes seen for the first time in a virus such as enzymes involved in translation and DNA metabolism. We are now interested in genes conserved in large DNA viruses. Analyzing them is a great opportunity to discover new “entry” points (molecular switches) in the control of cell death (apoptosis), cell division (DNA replication), or bacterial infection (phagocytosis, cell trafficking). This in turn might lead to innovative therapeutic approaches.

We produce our protein targets using a standard protocol based on incomplete factorial design (Abergel et al., 2003, J Struct Funct Genomics ; 4:141-57). Activity measurement are performed using spectroscopique techniques every time possible or in collaboration with specialized laboratories. For each project we try to solve the structure of the protein of interest alone and in complex with predicted ligands or interactors.

The next step of our study is to produce these genes in vivo, study the physiological impact of their expression as well as their localization depending on the infectious stage of the host.