NIH Grant Helps Understanding How Protein Networks Work Together to Drive Membrane Traffic

July 05, 2019

The laboratory of Jeanne Stachowiak, associate professor of biomedical engineering, has received a new four-year R01 grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. The focus of the grant is to study protein networks and their role in driving traffic within cells.

JCS R01 Overview Figure March 2018 08

Vesicle trafficking is the biological process by which materials are internalized at the cell surface. This process plays a key role in many human diseases. More than 50 cytoplasmic proteins work together to form vesicles, which provide an important means for sorting and transporting proteins, lipids, and other biological cargos. While it is known that multiple protein components must work simultaneously to execute each step of vesicle assembly, most studies of this system have examined one protein at a time. Less is understood about how these individual proteins work together.

This new grant will allow Stachowiak and her team to build on their extensive research on cellular mechanics and architecture by studying how individual proteins and mechanisms work together in a heterogenous environment. Researchers will quantify the role of protein networks in membrane curvature sensing and vesiculation, evaluate the ability of protein phase separation to catalyze coated vesicle assembly, and measure the impact of cargo-to-cargo interactions on endocytic uptake.

Gaining insight into how these cargo molecules compete and collaborate in the context of the network of other proteins and mechanisms with which they interact will lead to a better understanding of the fundamental science behind disease.