After talking about my life in general, I will now write in a few sentences how my research life was in Brazil. Since the end of 2010, I have worked in the Laboratory of Development and Cell Biology headed by the professor and my science mentor Luis Fernando Marques dos Santos.
Even though our lab investigates diverse cellular processes, the great majority of them are related with the superfamily of ABC proteins. These proteins can be found from bacteria to humans and are inserted in the cell membranes, in such a form, that they can access both the extracellular matrix and the cytosol, allowing them to work as active efflux transporters. In simple words, this means that after the binding and breaking of the ATP molecule (ABC: ATP binding cassetes) the chemical energy liberated generates conformational changes in the protein that results in the transport of substrates from the cytosol to the extracellular space.
Due to this broad occurrence in the tree of life as well as being related to several biological processes such as protection against toxic molecules (xenobiotics) they have been deeply studied, and actually, they are the most described protein family of the literature.
The work of our group is similar to the research of David Epel and the Hamdoun lab’s group. The research shows how important these proteins are during the development of the sea urchin. The ABC proteins, and most specifically the ABCB1 and ABCC1 are called the bouncers of the sea urchin embryos. Because the sea urchin has an external fertilization, their gametes (spermatozoa and eggs) are liberated in elevated number through the sea, and after the fertilization the cells are vulnerable to several things such as predators (which the proteins even trying harder as big bouncers won’t be enough for sure!) and toxic molecules that can arise either from the external environment or from their own cell metabolism.
Evolutionary processes related these ABC proteins with the transport of such toxins keeping the cell “clean” from such dangerous molecules. Just for curiosity, due to the elevated number of substrates these proteins are called “promiscuous”, and this is quite understandable, because the number of toxic molecules is quite huge and can come in different biochemist flavors.