Vici grant for Martine Smit’s research on viral receptor proteins

The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded a Vici grant to Martine Smit, professor of Target and Systems Biochemistry within the Division of Medicinal Chemistry. Smit will receive a sum of 1.5 million Euros to expand her research line on the contribution of viral receptor proteins to brain tumors.

01/27/2014 | 2:25 PM

Increasingempty evidence indicates that herpesviruses play a critical role in tumor growth. The Division of Medicinal Chemistry was the first to show that a specific G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) encoded by the human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) – a particular herpesvirus – stimulates cell growth and malignant properties of cancer cells. This viral receptor protein is also present in a very high percentage of brain tumor (glioblastoma) samples. HCMV encodes three more GPCRs, suggesting that the contribution of these viral receptors to tumor growth are more complex than previously thought.

New strategies for brain tumors
The aim of this Vici project is to unravel the molecular networks through which viral receptor proteins reprogram cellular signaling and subsequently accelerate tumor progression. Smit’s research group will utilize state-of-the-art in vitro and in vivo brain tumor model systems and a systems biology approach to study these networks. In addition, they will explore the potential of viral GPCRs as therapeutic targets in brain cancer, using viral GPCR-targeting nanobodies. These studies are crucial for the development of new strategies for the treatment of (brain) tumors.

Martine SmitAbout Martine Smit
Martine Smit studied Pharmacochemistry at VU University and obtained her PhD at the Division of Molecular Pharmacology on the regulation of histamine receptors. She next focused on signal transduction mechanisms related to tumorigenesis at the Department of Pharmacology of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, for which she obtained a NWO talent (current Rubicon) fellowship.

In 1999, Smit was awarded a fellowship of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW, extended Veni) to establish a new research line on human and viral chemokine receptors. She obtained a NWO Vidi grant in 2004 and was subsequently appointed the Fenna Diemer Lindeboom chair within the Faculty of Science at VU University.