Beltrao group

Cellular consequences of genetic variation

Beltrao group image

Our group studies how cellular functions have diverged during evolution as well as how they are altered in disease. We study the molecular sources of phenotypic novelties, exploring how DNA changes are propagated through molecular structures and interaction networks to give rise to phenotypic variability.

We use post-translational modifications (PTMs) data from mass-spectrometry experiments to study the evolutionary dynamics and functional importance of post-translational regulatory networks. We aim to reconstruct the ancestral states of PTM regulatory networks in order to understand how some of the wondrous cellular functions that exist today were like in their primitive forms. For this we develop approaches to infer the history of protein modifications; the determinants of specificity for PTM regulators; and the ways protein function is controlled by PTMs.

We are also increasingly interested in understanding how these regulatory systems make decisions in present day species and how they are re-wired in the context of disease (e.g. cancer or infection). We have assembled a collection of conditional phosphoproteomic experiments ( that we have used to study human kinase regulation and the space of signalling states of cells. We are now studying how genetic variation seen in cancer cells changes their signalling state with an aim to understand context dependent cellular vulnerabilities to drugs.

Beyond PTM regulatory networks we are broadly interested in studying why different individuals or species diverge in their response to drugs, other environmental perturbations or additional genetic changes. For this purpose we are developing a general propose framework to predict the molecular consequences of DNA changes ( and using these to guide genotype-phenotype associations.