Lipid molecules play diverse functional roles inside the cell. In addition to forming cell membranes, serving as energy carriers, more and more studies indicate lipid molecules are also critical mediators of a vast variety of cellular processes ranging from cell growth, proliferation, survival and migration to immune response, cargo sorting and membrane trafficking. Due to their critical and diverse functional roles, the metabolism and spatial distribution of lipid molecules are tightly regulated inside the cell. One major pathway the cell uses to maintain the non-random and dynamic distribution of lipid molecules among different organelles is through lipid transfer proteins. These proteins serve as vehicles to carry greasy lipid molecules across the aqueous environment from one type of organelle to another. So far, a total of six different types of lipid transfer proteins have been identified in yeast and mammals. They are involved in either shuffling different types of lipid molecules among different organelles or acting as lipid sensors to trigger downstream signaling.
My lab is interested in using NMR spectroscopy in combination with other biochemical and biophysical tools to understand the structural and dynamic basis of lipid transfer protein functions. Results from these studies will uncover the regulatory mechanisms of lipid transfer proteins and provide insights into the nonvesicular transport of lipid molecules. They will also shed light on the mechanisms of signaling processes mediated by bioactive lipids.