Dereje successfully completed his Master’s degree at the Free University of Amsterdam. During this time he joined Prof. Hans J. Bohnert’s lab at University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign, USA, as a research scholar.

Since September 2009, he has been a member of the IGS DHD program. As a member of the graduate school he was involved in the rotation projects in the labs of:

  • Prof. Kramer, Institute of Biochemistry
  • Prof. J. Dohmen, Institute of Genetics
  • Prof. U.I. Fluegge, Institute of Botany

Currently, he is working on the PhD project "Investigation of GABA shunt in Arabidopsis thaliana" in the group of Prof. U.I. Fluegge.

Project description

GABA shunt is a short enzymatic pathway that starts in the cytosol and end in mitochondria and it is conserved across different species. The pathway generally involves three enzymes in the main rout namely GAD, GABA-T and SSADH. The products of the GABA shunt i.e. succinate (Oxidation product of SSA (GABA-T product)) joins the TCA cycle, where as the fate of GHB formed from the reduction of the SSA is still unknown. Knock out of SSADH gene resulted in abnormal growth of the plant. SSADH mutation also caused a disorder called GHB aciduria in mammals which is associated with GHB accumulation. These ssadh mutant lines were shown to be rescued by mutation of the GABA-T gene.

In his PhD work, Dereje tries to rescue this phenotype via other alternative approaches. The outcome of this research is believed to assist in the better understanding of the GABA shunt related disorders in humans and other mammals.