Research Interests

Our research goals are to understand how ER shape and dynamics are regulated and by what mechanism(s) do ER contact sites drive the biogenesis of the other organelles in healthy cells, neurodegenerative diseases, and during viral infection.

Our lab is interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate the complex structure and function of the largest membrane bound organelle in the cell: the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The ER has an elaborate structure made up of multiple different functional domains, namely tubules, sheets, and the nuclear envelope. In the past several years, we have seen the function of ER tubule domains expand. Specifically, we now know that ER tubules tether other organelles to regulate their structure, trafficking, and biogenesis. We have shown through live cell microscopy that ER tubules maintain stable contact with other organelles as they traffic on microtubules, as they divide, and as they fuse. We have used biochemistry, live imaging, and electron microscopy to make the surprising discovery that ER contact sites define the position where mitochondria, endosomes, and RNP granules undergo division. These studies draw a picture of the ER as a master regulator of organelle biogenesis.

 

Our current research goals are to understand: 1) how ER-organelle contact sites are regulated and positioned, 2) to discover by what mechanism(s) ER contact sites drive the division of so many different organelles 3) how do ER contact sites regulate the fusion and trafficking of other organelles, 4) what is the role of ER shape and dynamics in neuronal health and degenerative diseases, and 5) by what mechanism do viruses traffic from endosomes to the ER and how do they form viral replication centers on rearranged ER membranes. These studies will be of general importance and could forge a link between basic cell biology and disease states.