Among the most exciting outcomes in the past two decades of biology research is the realization that lipids are key players not only in membrane structure and energy production, but in the regulation of membrane proteins, signal transduction, vesicular trafficking, secretion, and cytoskeletal rearrangements. Thus, it is not surprising that perturbation of lipid metabolism leads to a wide spectrum of pathologies, ranging from cancer to cardiovascular and neurological disorders. Sophisticated analytical technology has revealed that each class of lipids is characterized by extensive structural diversity with the potential to mediate numerous cellular processes. Elucidating the specialized functions of lipids is the next frontier in biology research.
In the Greenberg laboratory, we utilize the powerful genetic, molecular, and cell biological tools of the yeast system and relevant mammalian cell cultures to elucidate the cellular functions of two essential lipid pathways. One project is to understand the mitochondrial and cellular functions of cardiolipin, the signature lipid of the mitochondrial membrane. The second project seeks to elucidate the essential functions of inositol phospholipids and metabolites and the cellular consequences of inositol depleting drugs. These studies have implications for understanding the pathology underlying cardiovascular disorders and the therapeutic mechanisms of action of drugs used in the treatment of psychiatric disorders.