Central to the integrated function of multicellular organisms is cell contact mediated signaling and the spatial organizations of specialized membrane-surface domains. While many factors contribute, recent evidence indicates that the spectrin based membrane skeleton plays a pivotal role in these processes. Current research in the laboratory is aimed at understanding three aspects of the spectrin membrane skeleton in erythrocytes, epithelial cells, and neurons:
- The factors that mediate its polarized assembly with specific surface membrane receptor domains;
- The nature of the proteins that interact with spectrin and their role in signal transduction, cell differentiation, vesicle trafficking, and topographic membrane assembly; and
- The molecular basis of diseases that involve spectrin or any of its associated proteins, including contributions of the cortical cytoskeleton to the phenotypic alterations of malignant cells and the molecular pathology of acquired and inherited disorders involving this structure. Our studies on the erythrocyte focus on a molecular understanding of how specific proteins that cause human disease.