I am working on a project that is focused on TRIM proteins in relation to autophagy and cancer. Autophagy is the renovation system of the cell and is essential for keeping our cells healthy. In cancer, autophagy is a double-edged sword as it can either prevent or promote the disease. Several TRIM proteins are already known to be involved in autophagy, but it remains to fully understand the participation of these proteins in the cells renovation system. Through bioinformatical methods in combination with wet-lab experiments, our goal is to know more about how TRIM proteins might be involved in cancer, either through autophagy or through a non-autophagic pathway.
Basic research into the cellular- and molecular mechanisms of selective autophagy and cell signaling relevant for cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, aging, inflammation and host defense against intracellular pathogens. Terje and his group made a major breakthrough in our understanding of selective autophagy by discovering the first selective autophagy receptor p62/SQSTM1 and elucidated how specificity in cargo selection (waste disposal) could be achieved and how autophagy receptors could connect the cargo (waste) to the forming autophagosome. Some main discoveries by Terje and co-workers in the Autophagy Research Group are:
Discovered the first selective autophagy receptors p62/SQSTM1 and NBR1
Showed that the selective autophagy receptors bound to cargo and to Atg8 family proteins
Identified the LIR (LC3 Interacting Region) motif mediating the interaction in the majority of Atg8 interacting proteins
Discovered p62 formed protein bodies inside cells that are degraded by autophagy
Developed a novel tandem tag fluorescent protein assay to monitor autophagic flux
Described the positive feedback loop regulation between p62 and NRF2
Found NBR1 as the selective autophagy receptor in plants
Discovered NBR1 acting as a pexophagy receptor
Discovered the first Golgiphagy receptor, CALCOCO1, also acting in ERphagy
Showed Atg8 family proteins to act as membrane-bound scaffolds for autophagy core machinery proteins including the ULK1/2 complexes, the PI3K class III complex and ATG4 proteins.
Showed NIPSNAP1 and NIPSNAP2 to act as "Eat Me" signals for Mitophagy
Discovered that FKBP8 can act as a mitophagy receptor and that SAMM50 is involved in basal and OXPHOS-induced mitophagy
Found the inflammation repressor TNIP1/ABIN-1 to be degraded by autophagy following TBK1 activation.
The main goal of the research group (including Trond) is to understand the molecular mechanisms utilized by cells to cope with stress, under normal conditions and in disease. The discovery of the first selective autophagy receptors in 2005 led the research into the autophagy field, and autophagy soon became their main interest. Autophagy was at that time considered a basically non-selective process and the pathological importance of autophagy was not fully realized. The identification of the first selective autophagy receptors coincided with an increased interest in autophagy research worldwide. The following research (including work by the autophagy research group) revealed the process to be highly selective. It soon became evident that reduced selective autophagy is associated with aging, and is implicated in several age-related pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and inflammation. Our understanding of selective autophagy is now at a different level compared to 20 years ago, but several important knowledge gaps exist, and the remaining goal is to fill these gaps with new knowledge.