…We are a Team of Lipid Enthusiasts…

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We are interested in studying the involvement of lipids in different decision making processes of the cells by using combinations of analytical and synthetic chemistry as well as biochemistry and cell biology.

Lipids are a broad class of biomolecules whose primary role is to form the permeability barriers, which define cellular borders and compartments within them. Increasingly, they are recognized to play critical roles as signaling molecules both within cells and between cells, as lipids themselves, or following transformation by hydrolysis, oxidation or other modifications. Our research focuses on investigating the role of lipids and lipid-derived metabolites in different cellular processes, which is a major and unexplored area of biochemistry that is ripe for discovery and therapeutic applications.

Apoptosis (programmed cell death) and senescence (permanent cessation of division) are two natural processes that terminate the proliferative life of an animal cell. They play central roles in normal aging, cancer formation and progression, and response to cancer chemotherapy. Apoptosis has been heavily studied, and protein-based pathways that regulate it are well understood. Senescence, in contrast, has only recently been recognized as a major event in the life of tissue cells, and is much less well understood. Research on apoptosis and senescence have mostly been confined to key protein players. The role of lipids in these cellular events are largely unknown, and interest has focused on a small number of molecules in the sphingolipid family. We aim to construct comprehensive maps of the lipidome at different stages of cell life cycle, identify novel lipids and infer/define their functional relevance in apoptosis and senescence. The findings of these projects will not only provide a better understanding of the nature and involvement of a complex class of compounds in fundamental biological events but could also potentially provide future therapeutic applications for aging, cancer and inflammatory disease.

A collaborative effort between our lab and two others (Dr. Blaine Pfeifer, UB; Dr. Berat Haznedaroglu, Bogazici University, Turkey) is focused on studying the changes in microalgae metabolism and lipid composition under different nutrition conditions in order to maximize hydrocarbon production for biofuel production. Along these lines, we aim identify the growth conditions for maximized lipid and terpenoid accumulation and incorporate this information at the metabolite level with information at the transcriptome level and start building systems-level computational models to characterize microalgae metabolism for enhanced lipid production.

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