Raúl Burgos Castellanos
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2022 – Staff Scientist, Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona (Spain)
2015 – Post-doctoral fellow, Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG), Barcelona (Spain)
2010 – Post-doctoral fellow, University of Washington (UW), Seattle (USA)
2009 – Ph.D in Biotechnology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra (Spain)
2006 – M.Sc. in Biotechnology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra (Spain)
2004 – B.Sc. in Biology (Microbiology), Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Bellaterra (Spain)
What defines life? This has been a central question in philosophy and natural sciences for a long time. One way to approach this question is the study of minimal cells, which have undergone extensive genome reduction and keep the minimum genetic information required to survive. The human pathogen Mycoplasma pneumoniae has one of the smallest natural genomes (816 kb) capable of self-replication, and it has become a model organism for systems and synthetic biology. Owing to its low genetic redundancy, this bacterium offers an excellent biological platform to study basic cellular processes and to address function discovery of core essential genes.
Despite this apparent simplicity, almost one-third of its gene content is still of unknown function. In fact, many of these genes encode conserved essential proteins, highlighting the need for a better understanding of fundamental factors and processes supporting cellular life. Similarly, how genome regulation occurs in a cell system with only a handful of transcription factors is still poorly understood. In this context, our research aims to interrogate the function of essential genes, and investigate the extent of alternative mechanisms of gene expression. This includes assessing the influence of translational regulation, protein and RNA degradation, and possible epigenetic regulatory events.
As a long-term goal, our lab seeks a complete and quantitative understanding of this minimal cell model to an extent that we could define and understand every single molecular process in the cell, and ultimately use this knowledge to design this bacterium for biomedical applications. To this end, we combine experimental, computational analysis of “omics” data, and cell modeling to understand and rationally design cellular processes. We also develop methods for genome editing and genome-wide essentiality analyses to assist the rational engineering of a safe and versatile bacterial chassis to treat lung diseases.