What is the molecular basis of touch sensation?
Organisms sense and interact with their environment through the perception of mechanical stimuli such as touch, vibration, and sound. Specialized sensory cells in the skin and inner ear detect mechanical stimuli and convert it into an electrical signal through the opening of ion channels in the cell membrane. The Clark lab studies the architecture and mechanism of mechanically-activated ion channels to understand the molecular basis of touch sensation. We use C. elegans as a model system and apply a variety of biophysical and biochemical methods to our work, including cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM), fluorescence microscopy, TIRF microscopy, and patch-clamp electrophysiology.
How are lipids trafficked to the cell membrane?
Lipids are synthesized in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and moved to different organelles via non-vesicular and vesicular trafficking. Non-vesicular lipid trafficking is carried out by lipid transport proteins, large macromolecular complexes that form a bridge between membranes at organelle-membrane contact sites. Lipid transport proteins are proposed to act as ‘lipid firehoses’, rapidly shuttling single lipids between donor and acceptor membranes. We use cryo-EM, as well as other biophysical and biochemical techniques, to study the architecture of lipid transport protein complexes with the goal of understanding the mechanism of lipid transport.