Sensing and Mining Biological Membranes
Biological membranes serve as dynamic focal points for molecular interactions and cell regulation. They are dynamic entities whose chemical composition and physical shape undergo constant changes, which is essential for spatiotemporally specific regulation of a wide range of cellular processes. To investigate how these changes control cellular processes with high fidelity and specificity, we developed new molecular sensors and fluorescence-based imaging technologies that allow simultaneous in situ quantification of multiple signaling lipid species and the membrane curvature in a spatiotemporally resolved manner. Application of these technologies to various cellular systems led to discovery of new biological functions of lipids and new cell regulation mechanisms. These studies also revealed how the chemical diversity of lipids controls physiological functions of cellular proteins by modulating the chemical and physical microenvironment of the cell membranes. They also open new avenues for drug discovery for human diseases associated with dysfunctional lipid signaling pathways.