We are interested in how the lipids of a membrane regulate the function of membrane proteins such as SNAREs, Rab GTPases and ABC transporters.
Regulatory Lipids and Protein Function
Eukaryotic cells are compartmentalized by membrane-bound organelles that communicate through the trafficking of transport vesicles. The transfer of vesicular cargo between organelles is finalized by the fusing of two membrane bilayers into a continuous membrane. Membrane fusion is catalyzed by proteins called SNAREs that are present on both donor and acceptor membranes. Although seemingly straight forward, membrane fusion is highly orchestrated and tightly controlled to prevent unchecked fusion when unwanted, or missorting cargo to the wrong organelle. Thus, it is essential to regulate membrane trafficking and fusion to maintain homeostasis. Many proteins control these pathways, yet the role of the membrane itself remains underappreciated.
Membranes contain a small, yet critical group of “Regulatory Lipids” that aid in signal transduction, recruit proteins to their site of action, or alter membrane curvature and fluidity to modulate protein function. In the context of membrane fusion, regulatory lipids are essential for the fusion of synaptic vesicles to the plasma membrane, autophagosomes-to-lysosome fusion, phagosome-endosome fusion, et cetera. Regulatory lipids are essential throughout the different stages of membrane fusion and their effects can be altered though modification. Phosphoinositides, for example, can be differentially phosphorylated and dephosphorylated by specific kinase and phosphatases, or hydrolyzed by various lipases.
My lab focuses on how lipid modification affects protein function in the fusion pathway. It is clear that dysregulation of lipid modification has severe deleterious effects on fusion and overall cellular upkeep. In many cases pathologies have been mapped to lipid modifying enzymes, however, their effects on membrane function and cellular homeostasis is often unknown. Our long term goal is to bridge the gap between mapping diseases to genes and understanding the underlying mechanisms of the corresponding pathologies.
Current projects include:
I. Phosphatidic acid and Diacylglycerol Interconversion • Regulation of SNARE activation • Endolysosomal maturation • Autophagy
II. PI3P binding by Vam7 • Autoregulation of PI3P binding by Vam7 • Role of PI3P-Vam7 interaction in pathogenic yeast
III. PI(3,5)P2 production during fusion and fission • Reciprocal modulation of Ca2+ during fusion and fission • Role in regulating vacuole pH
IV. ABC transporters and vacuole fusion • Regulation of Ca2+ efflux • Interplay with PI(4,5)P2 production
B.S. California State University, Long Beach (Medical Microbiology)
M.S. California State University, Long Beach (Microbiology)
Ph.D. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Microbiology and Immunology)
Postdoc. Department of Biochemistry, Dartmouth Medical School
NIH Pre-Doctoral Fellow, 1999-2001
Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2003-2005
University of Illinois Research Board Arnold O Beckman Award, 2011-2012