Research Interests

As a cell biologist and biochemist, my research has focused on uncovering the molecular mechanisms responsible for the biogenesis of specialized compartments, called organelles, which are present inside all cells. These organelles perform key biochemical functions that keep cells alive. My laboratory has used a single-cell yeast organism as a model system to discover and isolate the complex machinery as well as a special class of signaling lipids, phosphoinositides, that sort and deliver proteins and enzymes to lysosomes, organelles that degrade and recycle cellular proteins. This sorting machinery directs the packaging of proteins into small membrane-enclosed carriers called vesicles. One set of machines we have discovered, the ESCRT complexes, turn off signals received by specific growth factor receptors at the cell's surface by sorting the activated receptors into vesicles. These vesicles are then delivered to the lysosome where the receptors are inactivated and degraded. Defects in the ESCRT complexes result in prolonged signaling by the growth factor receptors, which ultimately can lead to uncontrolled cell growth and tumor formation. The ESCRT complexes also have been found to play an essential role in the budding and release of the HIV virus from infected cells.

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Primary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry