Current Research and Scholarly Interests
During intracellular transport, proteins destined for the plasma membrane, secretory vesicles and lysosomes must be sorted from one another within the Golgi complex and sent to their appropriate addresses. The long term goal of our research is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which proteins are targeted to specific and distinct compartments. We would like to understand how transport vesicles select their contents, bud off from an organelle, translocate through the cytoplasm to recognize their target, and then fuse with their target to deliver specific cargo molecules. Current efforts seek to understand how the Golgi complex is formed and how it functions. Although one third of the proteins encoded in the human genome pass through the Golgi, we still do not know how it functions.
A molecular understanding of membrane traffic has broad implications for our understanding of growth control in cancer, receptor trafficking errors in heart disease, regulation of insulin secretion in diabetes and synaptic vesicle biogenesis and transport in neurological disorders. LRRK2 that is hyperactive in some types of Parkinson's Disease specifically targets Rabs--we want to understand how this is linked to disease. We also study the NPC1 and NPC1L1 proteins which are essential for cholesterol transport in humans and can lead to disease when mutated.