Regulated Membrane Fusion
We are focusing our studies on regulated membrane fusion, a molecular mechanism that is mediating both synaptic transmission and hormonal secretion. Regulated fusion of intracellular membrane vesicles with the plasma membrane is preceded by vesicular trafficking, formation of different vesicle pools and mobilization of fusion-competent vesicles. Ca2+-triggered fusion requires a SNARE complex composed of SNAP-25, VAMP and Syntaxin proteins. The SNARE complex has intrinsic capacity to mediate fusion but additional partner proteins are required to guarantee speed and accuracy of the release of signaling substances. Impairment of these processes can result in neuropsychiatric or metabolic disorders.
In order to better understand the molecular mechanisms leading to vesicular membrane fusion, we are combining in vitro systems where basic information can be extracted, with controlled in vivo systems, usually gene targeted mouse mutants, where the significance of a particular protein or a regulatory step can be analyzed in a physiologically relevant setting. We are also applying the technology and the preclinical research tools developed within our projects in a clinical setting by analyzing membrane fusion mechanisms in patients demonstrating deficiencies in hormonal secretion.
Research group: Growth and Metabolism - Diabetes and its complications