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University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty
Research projects (co)funded by the Slovenian Research Agency
Member of University of
University of Ljubljana, Biotechnical Faculty
Applications of aegerolysin-like proteins for detection
and eradication of pests
1.1.2016 - 31.12.2018
Range in 2016
1,45 FTE
Kristina Sepčić
Research activity
Biotechnical sciences
Research Organisation Partners
Agricultural institute of Slovenia
Jožef Stefan Institute
National Institute of Chemistry
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Medicine
To meet increasing food demands and to comply with
stricter environmental demands, agriculture must
increase food production and quality while decreasing
its detrimental ecological impact. These strategies can
also be directed towards efficient control of pests, by
replacing the use of first-generation chemical pesticides
with novel, safer, and environmentally friendly
Bacterial and fungal proteins belonging to the
aegerolysin family have been recently found to interact
with ceramide phosphoethanolamine, a membrane
sphingolipid that is specific to invertebrates. Moreover,
the genomes of some aegerolysin-producing fungi
harbour nucleotide sequences that encode proteins
with a membrane-attack-complex/ perforin (MACPF)
domain. When combined, aegerolysins and these
MACPF-proteins can perforate artificial and biological
membranes that contain the specific lipid receptor, by
forming transmembrane pore complexes. Similarly, the
genomes of some aegerolysin-producing bacteria
include nucleotide sequences that encode larger
protein partner(s) that, when combined with
aegerolysins, have membrane-perforating activity.
Some of these bacterial aegerolysin-based heteromeric
complexes have already been reported to have
selective insecticidal properties, and have been
successfully introduced into plants via genetic
In the proposed project, we aim to further evaluate the
potential of a battery of recombinant aegerolysins from
selected bacteria and fungi, alone and in combination
with their MACPF-protein partners, to act as potential
bio-pesticides against some of the currently most
damaging insects, and other selected invertebrates.
Aegerolysin interactions with membrane lipids and
soluble lipid derivatives will be further investigated, and
the crystal structures of these complexes will be solved,
to provide the new structural information that is
necessary for further protein engineering and
improvements of the pesticidal properties. The data
obtained will also shed light on the currently still cryptic
biological roles of these widely distributed and highly
expressed proteins, the aegerolysins.
link on sicris
The phases of the project and
their realization
We are currenlly preparing and characterizing several
recombinant fungal and bacterial aegerolysin proteins,
and studying the interactions of these proteins with
membrane lipid systems. Experiments aimed to
elucidate the biological role of aegerolysins in the
fungus Aspergillus niger are also in progress. We are
also rearing and collecting different target pest
organisms on which the toxic potential of aegerolysins
will be tested.
Citations for bibliographic
link on sicris