When he was a physics student at the University of Liège Frédéric Kerff he wanted to become an astrophysicist. But it was a job offer pinned up on a board in the Faculty of Sciences which was to shape his career. The Centre for Protein Engineering is looking for a physicist to work in crystallography. ‘_At the time, proteins meant meat for me,’ he now jokes. ‘I knew nothing about the living world.’_ No matter! He took the plunge. And in 2002 completed a doctorate at the ULg on the crystallisation of a bacterial protein in the beta lactamase family. He then left to work at the Boston Biomedical Research Institute, where he carried out post-doctoral work crowned with a publication in the Nature magazine.
This opened FNRS doors for him, and he has been one of its credited researchers since 2005, carrying on his work on crystallography in the framework of the Centre for Protein Engineering. And of his first love for astrophysics very little remains in the end, if not the splendid three dimensional images of proteins on his computer screen, certain of which irresistibly recall the spectacle of the constellations. But from atoms to stars, at heart it is just a question of scale.
Selcetion of publications
KERFF F., AMOROSO A., HERMAN R., SAUVAGE E., PETRELLA S., FILEE P., CHARLIER P., JORIS B., TABUCHI A., NIKOLAIDIS N., COSGROVE D.J., Crystal structure and activity of Bacillus subtilis YoaJ (EXLX1), a bacterial expansin that promotes root colonization, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2008, 105(44):16876-81.
SAUVAGE E,. KERFF F., TERRAK M., AYALA J.A., CHARLIER P., The penicillin-binding proteins: structure and role in peptidoglycan biosynthesis, FEMS Microbiol Rev., 2008, 32(2):234-58.
CHEREAU D., KERFF F., GRACEFFA P., GRABAREK Z., LANGSETMO K., DOMINGUEZ R. , Actin-bound structures of Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP)-homology domain 2 and the implications for filament assembly, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2005, 102(46):16644-9.
TERRAK M., KERFF F., LANGSETMO K., TAO T., DOMINGUEZ R., Structural basis of protein phosphatase 1 regulation, Nature, 2004, 429(6993):780-4.