Membrane Chemical Biology - Spotlight on lipids

Our lab accommodates organic chemists, biochemists and cell biologists in an interdisciplinary setting. We focus on elucidating the role of lipids in cellular processes by using specifically designed chemical tools in live cell experiments.


Dynamic changes of membrane composition and organization are crucial for key cellular processes. Cellular transport, migration, and polarization all require membrane reorganization as well as initiation and maintenance of intracellular concentration gradients of distinct molecular species. The role and importance of lipids has not been studied comprehensively in living cells, due to both, experimental limitations and overwhelming molecular diversity of the cellular lipidome.

Why are so many different lipid species required? How do individual lipids interact with proteins and how are these interactions regulated? What is the precise role of lipid metabolism in cellular signaling? Which mechanisms control spatial lipid organization? Answering these and related questions will be critical for elucidating how biological membranes function on a molecular level. Fortunately, new analytical methods and more and more refined chemical tools become increasingly available and pave the way for a new era of discovery that will change our perception of biological membranes.

Consequently, research in our lab group focuses on the development of chemical tools to monitor lipid localization, to modulate the intracellular concentration of distinct lipid species, and to capture lipid-protein interactions. We use a combination of approaches from organic chemistry, biochemistry and cell biology to ensure the capability to address a given problem from as many angles as possible. Specifically we want to be able to:

  • Perform quantitative analyses of signaling lipid metabolism in living cells
  •  Determine the kinetic parameters of lipid metabolizing enzymes in living cells
  •  Identify signaling lipid metabolites with respect to molecular identity and abundance
  •  Study the influence of lipid chemical diversity with regard to signaling outcome
  •  Capture the protein interactome of molecular distinct lipid second messengers
  •  Visualize intracellular lipid organization on the nanoscale and elucidate the molecular mechanisms required for its maintenance
  •  Study selected lipid-protein interactions in molecular detail
  •  Correlate mechanistic findings with physiological outcome