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Introductions

The Javelle research group was established in October 2009, as part of the expanding Division of Molecular Microbiology.

Membrane transporters play crucial roles in fundamental cellular functions and normal physiological processes such as nervous influx conduction, nutrient uptake, removal of waste or oxygen transport during respiration. Therefore studies on solute carrier proteins have had great impact on our understanding of human disease and the design of effective drugs. About 30% of current clinically-marked drugs have as their targets membrane transporters or channels. The solute carrier from the SLC26A family of proteins was defined 15 years ago and it has been shown that these proteins belong to the ubiquitous SulP/SLC26A family of anion channels/transporters conserved from bacteria to man. The human genome encodes at least 10 proteins of this family, amongst which four have been identified as disease genes. Moreover the bacterial members of this protein family may play a role in bacterial virulence. Many important questions remainun answered about this poorly-characterised protein family, in particular regarding their structure and mode of action. Unfortunately studies on these proteins in humans are technically very challenging. Therefore, the philosophy of my project, in agreement with the famous citation of the French biologist Jacques Monod “What is true for Escherichia coli is also true for the elephant” is to use simple and well-studied bacterial model organisms, such as Escherichia coli, which possess the SulP/SLC26A proteins. In these model organisms, powerful genetic and biochemical tools will be used to shed more light on this important class of transporter. Although my project is fundamental, any advance in our understanding of the mode of action of these transport systems will have a potential impact on society, given the importance of these proteins in different biological processes, including human disease.