Student Hosted Colloquium Kickoff: Professor Laura M.K. Dassama
About the Seminar
Deciphering the molecular mechanisms of lipid trafficking in bacteria
Using computation, biochemistry, and biophysics to discover and unravel the mechanisms of key players in bacterial metabolite transport.
Lipids, including sterols, are important for mammalian cell physiology. These molecules form part of membranes, and sterols are known to modulate membrane fluidity, thereby maintaining membrane integrity, providing tolerance to stress, promoting fusion events, etc. Whereas decades of research have provided molecular insights into eukaryotic sterol lipid synthesis, transport, regulation, and function, a similar understanding of sterols is lacking for bacteria. It is known that some bacteria make sterols de novo, and others use it to establish pathogenesis. Moreover, gut microbiota interactions with sterols and related metabolites can alter host lipid metabolism and profoundly impact human health. Despite the preponderance of research about microbial interactions with these lipids, missing are molecular insights into how the interactions occur and how they are regulated. We begin to address this knowledge gap by identifying the first examples of transporters for bacterial sterols. We provide structures and molecular mechanisms for these proteins and note that they differ substantially from eukaryotic sterol transporters. The widespread presence of homologs in bacterial genomes suggests that sterol trafficking is not as rare as once thought. Guided by structural insights, we now aim to uncover the molecular details that govern bacterial engagement with sterol lipids, which we posit will reveal novel targets for therapeutic interventions in bacterial colonization and aberrant sterol metabolism.
Professor Laura M. K. Dassama is a chemical and structural biologist who uses tools of chemistry and physics to provide molecular insights into complex biological processes. Her group’s primary goal is to use detailed understanding of the factors that enable interactions between biological molecules to provide insights that allow functional control of those molecules. Her research projects aim to 1) discover the drivers of biomolecular interactions and 2) leverage that information to modulate disease relevant proteins.
About the Speaker
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