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Research Interests

This cell is fluorescently labeled, displaying lipid droplets as red, circular organelles while the green fluorescence refer to lipid droplet-binding proteins.

Our general research interests are in the area of eukaryotic cell biology.  We are currently pursuing two different research projects, but with a common theme of the role of lipid modifying enzymes in organelle biology.  The first project focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of intracellular membrane trafficking in the secretory and endocytic pathways.  Specifically, we are examining the role that phospholipid-modifying enzymes (phospholipases and lysophospholipid acyltransferases) play in the formation of membrane tubules from the Golgi complex and endosomes.  These membrane tubules appear to facilitate membrane trafficking from both the Golgi complex and endosomes.  The second project is on the cellular and molecular mechanisms of lipid (fat) storage and utilization within organelles called lipid droplets (also called adiposomes).  Excess dietary fats are converted to triglycerides and then stored in lipid droplets, which are highly dynamic intracellular organelles conserved from yeast to humans.  When the chemical energy stored in triglycerides is needed by cells, lipolysis is triggered to breakdown triglycerides and lipid droplets.  We are currently engaged in a project to better understand the degradation of stored triglycerides by a newly discovered family of neutral lipases, the Patatin Domain Containing Phospholipase A (PNPLA) enzymes.  Storage and utilization of excess fats in lipid droplets has direct relevance to our understanding of obesity and diabetes.

This immunofluorescent cell is displaying the structures of the endoplasmic reticulum (green) and the Golgi (orange).