My main line of research is focused on the elucidation of fuctional and structural properties of cysteine proteases in unicellular photosynthetic organisms. Currently, most of our focus is on p20-containing proteases, termed ortho- and metacaspases.
We have been the first to biochemically characterize these proteins and have due to their catalytic properties and evolutionary early emergence termed them orthocaspases [Klemencic et al., 2015] and our recent findings suggest that these proteases are involved in regulation of prokaryotic cell death regulators: toxin-antitoxin systems [Klemencic et al, 2021].
Homologous to orthocaspases are the metacaspases, which represent the largest subgroup in the superfamily of caspases proteins and can further be devided into four classes, depending on the presence as well as the location of the p10 domain. Our story on metacaspases started with the first characterisation of a type III metacaspase [Klemencic and Funk, 2018] and we were recently the first to produce and characterise the plant type I metacaspase [van Midden et al., 2021].
Our research is expanding into the world of other cysteine proteases, where we aim to develop novel tools not only for their detection but also for targeted modulation of their activities in vitro and in planta.