The central research theme of my lab is how cells form, shape and maintain distinct compartments.
The development and acquisition of internal membranous compartments (or organelles) is one of the major transitions in the evolution of life. These cellular "organs" serve to spatially and functionally separate the various biochemical processes of a cell. To fulfil a specific function each compartment must receive a characteristic complement of proteins and lipids. For the transport of such protein and lipid cargo, the cell has developed a network of highly specific membrane trafficking routes.
These routes are not only essential for handling cargo; they are also the major biosynthetic pathway to the formation of new organelles. Rather than using individual protein and lipid building blocks, cells rely on a pre-existing compartment as a template to make a new organelle. Interestingly, often the template and newly formed organelle are completely different in terms of biochemical composition, function and morphology.
We study the birth of one particular compartment, the peroxisome, to address the following questions:
1. how are donor membranes sequentially remodelled to create a variety of different new organelles, whilst each maintains its unique identity? and,
2. how do structural conformations of key protein and lipid components finally impose organellar architecture?
We use genetics, proteomics, microscopy and biochemistry in yeast to identify and functionally characterise new molecules that underpin organelle formation.