Vladimír Hampl and his team at Department of parasitology and BIOCEV gets ERC Consolidator grant! The five-year project "Life without mitochondrion" will examine two potentially amitochondriate lineages by means of genomics and transcriptomics, conduct experiments simulating the moments of mitochondrial loss and try to induce the mitochondrial loss in vitro by knocking out or down genes for mitochondrial biogenesis.
Mitochondria are often referred to as the “power houses” of eukaryotic cells. All eukaryotes were thought to have mitochondria of some form until 2016, when the first eukaryote thriving without mitochondria was discovered by Dr. Hampl´s laboratory – a flagellate Monocercomonoides. Motivations of the project are understanding cellular functions of these cells, which represent a new functional type of eukaryotes, and understanding the circumstances of the unique event of mitochondrial loss.
The first objective focuses on the cell physiology. The team will perform a metabolomic study revealing major metabolic pathways and concentrate further on elucidating its unique system of iron-sulphur cluster assembly. In the second objective, they will investigate in details the unique case of mitochondrial loss. The team examine two additional potentially amitochondriate lineages by means of genomics and transcriptomics, conduct experiments simulating the moments of mitochondrial loss and try to induce the mitochondrial loss in vitro by knocking out or down genes for mitochondrial biogenesis.
The team has chosen Giardia intestinalis and Entamoeba histolytica as models for the latter experiments, because their mitochondria are already reduced to minimalistic “mitosomes” and because some genetic tools are already available for them. Successful mitochondrial knock-outs would enable us to study mitochondrial loss in ‘real time’ and in vivo. In the third objective, we will focus on transforming Monocercomonoides into a tractable laboratory model by developing methods of axenic cultivation and genetic manipulation. This will open new possibilities in the studies of this organism and create a cell culture representing an amitochondriate model for cell biological studies enabling the dissection of mitochondrial effects from those of other compartments. The team is composed of the laboratory of PI and eight invited experts. They hope it has the ability to address these challenging questions.