Structural Studies in Membrane Biology
Organelles within a cell differ in terms of the lipid composition of their surrounding membrane, and these differences help to establish organelle identity and thus allow for directional transport of materials between organelles. The focus of the lab and an emerging area of study is to understand the molecular mechanisms by which membrane composition is established and regulated. We are particularly interested in phosphoinositide lipids, which in addition to their role in organelle identity also are critical in signal transduction pathways, and their homeostasis. We are studying the structure and function of the protein complexes involved in making and degrading phosphoinositide lipids as well as lipid transport proteins that modulate membrane composition by transporting lipids between membrane bilayers at so-called membrane contact sites. We use X-ray crystallography, Electron Microscopy, biochemistry and biophysics to understand structure and function, then test hypotheses arising from these studies using cell biology techniques.