Michiel Matthijs

Ghent University, Gent, VLG, Belgium

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Publications (6)28.18 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Diatoms are unicellular photosynthetic microalgae that play a major role in global primary production and aquatic biogeochemical cycling. Endosymbiotic events and recurrent gene transfers uniquely shaped the genome of diatoms, which contains features from several domains of life. The biosynthesis pathways of sterols, essential compounds in all eukaryotic cells, and many of the enzymes involved are evolutionarily conserved in eukaryotes. Although well characterized in most eukaryotes, the pathway leading to sterol biosynthesis in diatoms has remained hitherto unidentified. Through the DiatomCyc database we reconstructed the mevalonate and sterol biosynthetic pathways of the model diatom Phaeodactylum tricornutum in silico. We experimentally verified the predicted pathways using enzyme inhibitor, gene silencing and heterologous gene expression approaches. Our analysis revealed a peculiar, chimeric organization of the diatom sterol biosynthesis pathway, which possesses features of both plant and fungal pathways. Strikingly, it lacks a conventional squalene epoxidase and utilizes an extended oxidosqualene cyclase and a multifunctional isopentenyl diphosphate isomerase/squalene synthase enzyme. The reconstruction of the P. tricornutum sterol pathway underscores the metabolic plasticity of diatoms and offers important insights for the engineering of diatoms for sustainable production of biofuels and high-value chemicals.
    New Phytologist 07/2014; · 6.74 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Cell division in photosynthetic organisms is tightly regulated by light. Although the light dependency of the onset of the cell cycle has been well characterized in various phototrophs, little is known about the cellular signaling cascades connecting light perception to cell cycle activation and progression. Here, we demonstrate that diatom-specific cyclin 2 (dsCYC2) in Phaeodactylum tricornutum displays a transcriptional peak within 15 min after light exposure, long before the onset of cell division. The product of dsCYC2 binds to the cyclin-dependent kinase CDKA1 and can complement G1 cyclin-deficient yeast. Consistent with the role of dsCYC2 in controlling a G1-to-S light-dependent cell cycle checkpoint, dsCYC2 silencing decreases the rate of cell division in diatoms exposed to light-dark cycles but not to constant light. Transcriptional induction of dsCYC2 is triggered by blue light in a fluence rate-dependent manner. Consistent with this, dsCYC2 is a transcriptional target of the blue light sensor AUREOCHROME1a, which functions synergistically with the basic leucine zipper (bZIP) transcription factor bZIP10 to induce dsCYC2 transcription. The functional characterization of a cyclin whose transcription is controlled by light and whose activity connects light signaling to cell cycle progression contributes significantly to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying light-dependent cell cycle onset in diatoms.
    The Plant Cell 01/2013; · 9.25 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Diatoms are one of the most successful groups of unicellular eukaryotic algae. Successive endosymbiotic events contributed to their flexible metabolism, making them competitive in variable aquatic habitats. Although the recently sequenced genomes of the model diatoms Phaeodactylum tricornutum and Thalassiosira pseudonana have provided the first insights into their metabolic organization, the current knowledge on diatom biochemistry remains fragmentary. By means of a genome-wide approach, we developed DiatomCyc, a detailed pathway/genome database of P. tricornutum. DiatomCyc contains 286 pathways with 1719 metabolic reactions and 1613 assigned enzymes, spanning both the central and parts of the secondary metabolism of P. tricornutum. Central metabolic pathways, such as those of carbohydrates, amino acids and fatty acids, were covered. Furthermore, our understanding of the carbohydrate model in P. tricornutum was extended. In particular we highlight the discovery of a functional Entner-Doudoroff pathway, an ancient alternative for the glycolytic Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas pathway, and a putative phosphoketolase pathway, both uncommon in eukaryotes. DiatomCyc is accessible online (http://www.diatomcyc.org), and offers a range of software tools for the visualization and analysis of metabolic networks and 'omics' data. We anticipate that DiatomCyc will be key to gaining further understanding of diatom metabolism and, ultimately, will feed metabolic engineering strategies for the industrial valorization of diatoms.
    The Plant Journal 02/2012; 70(6):1004-14. · 6.58 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Coordination of cell division with growth and development is essential for the survival of organisms. Mistakes made during replication of genetic material can result in cell death, growth defects, or cancer. Because of the essential role of the molecular machinery that controls DNA replication and mitosis during development, its high degree of conservation among organisms is not surprising. Mammalian cell cycle genes have orthologues in plants, and vice versa. However, besides the many known and characterized proliferation genes, still undiscovered regulatory genes are expected to exist with conserved functions in plants and humans. Starting from genome-wide Arabidopsis thaliana microarray data, an integrative strategy based on coexpression, functional enrichment analysis, and cis-regulatory element annotation was combined with a comparative genomics approach between plants and humans to detect conserved cell cycle genes involved in DNA replication and/or DNA repair. With this systemic strategy, a set of 339 genes was identified as potentially conserved proliferation genes. Experimental analysis confirmed that 20 out of 40 selected genes had an impact on plant cell proliferation; likewise, an evolutionarily conserved role in cell division was corroborated for two human orthologues. Moreover, association analysis integrating Homo sapiens gene expression data with clinical information revealed that, for 45 genes, altered transcript levels and relapse risk clearly correlated. Our results illustrate how a systematic exploration of the A. thaliana genome can contribute to the experimental identification of new cell cycle regulators that might represent novel oncogenes or/and tumor suppressors.
    Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences CMLS 01/2012; 69(12):2041-55. · 5.62 Impact Factor
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