Role of lipids in the functioning of the cell membrane and organism

Major interest of my group is to understand basic principles of how different lipids are involved in the organization and functioning of the eukaryotic cell membrane and signaling processes. Using C. elegans as a model system and applying a variety of genetic and biochemical methods, we investigate biogenesis and metabolism of several classes of lipids such as sterols, glycerophospholipids, glycolipids or fatty acids. We would like to know how these lipids alone or in concert with other components of the membrane, regulate its essential biological functions: permeability to ions, fluidity and cell-cell signaling. One line of our investigations is based on an approach that could be termed as “chemical reversed genetics”. An ultimate goal of these studies is: 1) to catalogue/purify all lipophilic molecules of C. elegans; 2) to rescue a genetic deficiency of the worm, induced by a mutation or RNAi, by adding back small molecule (lipid) to the organism.

Using biochemical approach, we also have identified two novel classes of lipids that are stage/species specific. These lipids might be involved in forming a barrier for water loss in non-feeding larval stage (dauer).

Future plans

We will continue to further investigate the repertoire of C. elegans lipids: their biosynthesis, biophysical properties, the role in functioning of the membrane and signaling.