For many years, my research has been focused on molecular biology of papillomaviruses, papillomavirus-host interactions, and the effect of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection on cellular environment. Currently I am involved in projects developing anti-HPV drugs.
The second interest is RNA methyltransferases and their role in cell proliferation. Many methyltransferases encoded by human genome are associated with disorders, most frequently with cancers and mental disorders. We have shown that the WBSCR22 protein, encoded by the Williams-Beuren Syndrome region, is involved in ribosome biogenesis, specifically in late steps of rRNA processing occurring in the nucleus of the cell. The activity of WBSCR22 is regulated by co-activator TRMT112. Our current work is concentrated on the characterization of the whole network of proteins interacting with the TRMT112 “hub” protein in mammalian cells. This will help to understand the role of RNA methyltransferases in cell proliferation, the cross-talk between different cellular pathways, and factors regulating WBSCR22 activity within the cell.
My third interest is focused on cancer antigens, specifically on melanoma associated antigens (MAGE-A proteins) and their usage as biomarkers and therapeutic targets. Our preliminary data show that MAGE-A proteins are incorporated into extracellular vesicles released by cancer cells. We are interested in the characterization of these extracellular vesicles and furthermore, generation of extracellular vesicles with desired properties carrying different cancer-testis antigens. This projects also involves generation and development of antibodies suitable for cancer therapy.
I have a long-term experience with various biochemical methods (ultracentrifugation, chromatography, cellular fractionation etc.) used for fractionation of cells, purification of proteins and protein complexes, and extracellular vesicles. We have used different proteomic approaches and immunoprecipitations to characterize the proteins and their interactions. My expertise also includes classical molecular biology methods (cloning, mutation analysis, PCR, ChIP etc.), immunological methods (western blot, immunofluorescence, ELISA), cell culture techniques including generation of cell lines, flow cytometry and confocal microscope.
I am interested in cooperation with groups having expertise in membranes, lipids, cytoskeletion, proteins of extracellular space etc.
Kurg, R.; Reinsalu, O.; Jagur, S.; Õunap, K.; Võsa, L.; Kasvandik, S.; Padari, K.; Gildemann, K.; Ustav, M. (2016). Biochemical and proteomic characterization of retrovirus Gag based microparticles carrying melanoma antigens. Scientific Reports, 6 (29245), 1−11, 10.1038/srep29425.
Õunap, K.; Leetsi, L.; Matsoo, M.; Kurg, R. (2015). The Stability of Ribosome Biogenesis Factor WBSCR22 Is Regulated by Interaction with TRMT112 via Ubiquitin-Proteasome Pathway. PLoS ONE, 10 (7), e0133841.
Kivipõld, P.; Võsa, L.; Ustav, M.; Kurg, R. (2015). DAXX modulates human papillomavirus early gene expression and genome replication in U2OS cells. Virology Journal, 12, 104, 10.1186/s12985-015-0335-z.
Õunap, K.; Käsper, L.; Kurg, A.; Kurg, R. (2013). The human WBSCR22 protein is involved in the biogenesis of the 40S ribosomal subunits in mammalian cells. PLoS ONE, 8 (9), nr e75686.
Võsa, L.; Sudakov, A.; Remm, M.; Ustav, M.; Kurg, R. (2012). Identification and analysis of papillomavirus E2 protein binding sites in the human genome. Journal of Virology, 86 (1), 348−357.