A living cell contains thousands of molecules that mediate the cellular response to different stimuli. The networks of these molecules form a huge web of signaling circuits. Among the most important components of these circuits are protein kinases. These proteins act as molecular switches: they attach phosphoryl groups to proteins and this change mediates the transfer of signaling information.
We want to understand the phenomenon of multisite protein phosphorylation. This is a process where protein kinases add multiple phosphates to a protein and the patterns of phosphates act as complex signal processors. We look how such molecular switches regulate the cell division.
Our greater vision is to apply the discovered rules of multisite phosphorylation to engineer synthetic circuits for synthetic biology. One practical application of such “molecular toolbox” of processors and circuit elements would be to use them in designer cells that act as cell factories producing pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals via sustainable bioprocessing.
Mart established the lab in 2006 after his post-doctoral work at UCSF in Professor David Morgan’s lab. The newly built Institute of Technology, at the University of Tartu offered an excellent opportunity and resources for repatriating post-docs and international researchers to set up their independent research directions.
The lab was largely established with the help of funds from Wellcome Trust and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Currently the main source of funding is an ERC Consolidator Grant.