What is Membrane Biology?
Membranes surround the outside of cells, as well as the individual organelles in eukaryotic cells, such as the ER, Golgi, nucleus, mitochondria and endosomes/lysosomes. These bilayers are composed of phospholipids, cholesterol and proteins. They form a selectivity barrier to prevent unregulated movement of molecules in and out of these compartments, and protect the cell from outside perturbations. Movement of macromolecules between the different intracellular organelles is facilitated by small membrane-bound vesicles. Movement of smaller molecules, such as sugars or ions, is facilitated by transporters and channels in the membrane. Numerous proteins and sugar molecules present in the lipid bilayer, or that are associated with the bilayer, are responsible for transport of specific molecules, cellular recognition, signaling, and immune responses. Inappropriate functioning of these pathways can lead to devastating human diseases.
Our research in the area of Membrane Biology
Studies of membrane biology in the Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology (BMP) department reflect the complicated nature of studying these intriguing macromolecular structures. Our research is very interdisciplinary, taking advantage of a wide range of techniques and ideas. In the Munson lab, they use a variety of biochemical/structural and genetic/cell biological studies to elucidate the mechanisms of vesicular transport into and out of cells.
Our breakthrough discoveries
Together, the research in BMP has gained remarkable insights into the mechanisms underlying membrane transport, vesicular trafficking, and nuclear export. The Kobertz lab is using the membrane (glycocalyx) to visualize cellular efflux from ion channels and membrane transporters. The Munson lab determined the molecular architecture, protein-protein interactions and functions of several highly conserved eukaryotic proteins that regulate membrane targeting and vesicle fusion.