Jeroen Crappé

After obtaining my master degree in Bioscience Engineering: Cell & Gene Biotechnology at this faculty, I started working as a phd student @biobix in August 2010. I obtained an IWT scholarship with a project entitled “Micro-peptides as non-classical bio-active peptides in higher eukaryots”.

In recent literature two different classes of bio-active peptides are described . The common, classical peptides are cleaved from larger precursor proteins, becoming active extracellular in the secretory pathway. They play their signaling role for example by activating G-protein coupled receptors of neighboring or more distant cells. A second class consists of peptides that are not processed in the secretory machinery. One type of the latter category, which we focus on in this research project, denoted as micro-peptides, is translated from small open reading frames (sORFs; <= 100 amino acids). Due to the lack of an N-terminal signaling sequence, they are immediately set free in the cytoplasm after translation.

The scoop of this research project is to identify micropeptides in model organisms Drosophila melanogaster and Mus musculus based on a multi-disciplinary approach combining both wet-lab and in silico experiments. A combination of bio-informatic methods and relevant experimental data are used to construct a micro-peptide prediction pipeline.

Micro-peptide research is still in its infancy, only a handful of members of this group of bio-active peptides have been reported in different species. Parallel to the discovery of more micropeptides, our knowledge will also grow. It will become easier to discover and annotate new members of this new class of biological players. Altogether we strongly belief that short protein sequences constitute a significant, and largely uncharacterized, fraction of the gene products encoded by any genome. Characterization of these sORFs herald important functions and are, in the same way as microRNA, an important but long time overlooked class of bio-active molecules. Their discovery could have a significant impact on biology and medicine…

This research is supervised by Prof. Van Criekinge, Gerben Menschaert and Geert Baggerman and maid possible via a scholarship from the IWT.

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