Above: A blueprint for the construction of artificial membranes that mimic the asymmetric lipid distribution found in natural cell membranes (image credit Kathleen Gorospe/University of Windsor Science Meets Art).
We use cutting-edge biophysical methods to study the architecture of lipid membranes.
The plasma membrane that surrounds a living cell is truly a marvel of evolutionary nanoengineering. The demands placed on this outermost membrane are, in a sense, contradictory: it must be sturdy enough to provide protection against an often harsh external environment, yet malleable enough to allow for cell growth, division, and motility, and the passage of water and nutrients. Nature's recipe for solving this unique challenge? Combine fat, protein, and a pinch of sugar, then let the system self-organize! The result is a remarkable organelle that is optimized for its dual roles as a cellular barrier and gateway.
Although the basic architecture of the plasma membrane has been known for nearly fifty years, there is an emerging consensus that some critical processes occurring at and within the plasma membrane cannot be adequately explained without invoking ultrastructure—that is, the fine details of lipid and protein spatial organization on the nanometer length scale. Our lab specializes in experiments capable of seeing membrane structure at this level of detail.
We are on the lookout for people passionate about membranes!
Together with a strong international network of collaborators, our lab combines expertise in biophysical, biochemical, and computational methods to answer fundamental questions about biomembrane structure and organization. We use model systems spanning a vast range of complexity, from simple liposomes made from a single type of lipid, to multicomponent vesicles with engineered lipid asymmetry, to the plasma membrane of a living cell itself. We use techniques ranging from calorimetry, to fluorescence, to neutron and X-ray scattering. Whatever your background, if you are interested in learning about membranes, we are interested in you!