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Thermal Features
van der Oost, John

Dr. John van der Oost

Associate Professor
Department of Microbiology
Wageningen University
Wageningen, Outside the U.S.

The Laboratory of Microbiology investigates biotransformations of micro-organisms (Archaea, Bacteria, Eukarya) by an integration of physiology, biochemistry, genetics and bio-informatics. In the Bacterial Genetics research group, molecular techniques are applied to gain insight in the biochemical and genetic adaptation of selected processes in distinct model Archaea and Bacteria: (i) thermophilic archaea, (ii) bacteria that degrade biomass and produce bio-fuels, and (iii) bacteria that degrade toxic, halogenated compounds. The focus of the ongoing research projects is on:

  • enzymes - gene identification & prediction; gene expression; protein purification & characterization; functional optimization by random & rational engineering;

  • pathways - characterization; directed metabolic engineering;

  • regulation – structure-function analysis of regulators; characterize control at transcription, translation & protein level;

  • genomics- comparative & functional genomics (transcriptome / proteome / metabolome ); 

Comparative genomics of available archaeal genomes has resulted in insight in genome flexibility, and the concerted gain and loss of gene-clusters. Ongoing projects focus on improved functional prediction and subsequent biochemical analysis of hypothetical genes, focussing on gaps in central metabolic pathways and on key transcriptional regulators. Metabolic engineering is an obvious goal in the near future.

Structure-function relations of enzymes are addressed in laboratory evolution and rational (computational) design studies, on the one hand to get insight in the molecular basis of protein stability and substrate specificity, and on the other hand to attempt to optimize enzymes for specific applications, including bio-sensors.  

Regulation of key metabolic features is addressed in several ongoing studies. In these analyses a wide variety of biochemical analyses is crucial: in vitro transcription, footprinting, crystallization, mutagenesis, analysis of protein-protein interactions, micro array analysis, proteomics.


The described research is primarily driven by our curiosity to reveal the molecular basis of selected microbial processes, by using a combination of in silico and experimental approaches. The long-term motivation to study these unique features is gaining insight in the functioning of key metabolic features, and their application in biotechnological processes in (i) agro-food & pharma industry, (ii) biofuel production, and (iii) the bio-remediation of polluted environments.

  1. The Hyperthermophilic Archaeon Sulfolobus:from Exploration to Exploitation
    Geothermal Biology and Geochemistry in YNP [TBI Text!], 2005