Research Fellows Directory
Professor Peter Cullen BSc, PhD
University of Bristol
Neuronal and non-neuronal cells are composed of an outer boundary that is defined by a complex mixture of protein and lipids called the plasma membrane. This encircles a fluid filled 3-dimensional space, termed the cytosol, which contains additional membrane-encircled compartments each composed of a unique combination of proteins and lipids. For cells to function normally, proteins and lipids must be efficiently transported to the correct membrane-enriched compartment within this maze of membranes. Not surprisingly, if such transport is perturbed, so that the wrong proteins and lipids are delivered to the incorrect membrane-enriched compartment, cell function can be adversely affected which in turn leads to the development of various human diseases. Establishing the mechanisms through which cells achieve regulated protein and lipid transport is therefore a major challenge in cell biology with direct implication for our understanding of human disease.
For the last 10 years our laboratory has focused on describing the mechanistic details that govern regulated transport of proteins and lipids within a specific aspect of the cell's membraneous maze termed the endocytic network. In particular, we have studied a family of proteins called the sorting nexins. Our research, and that of others, is beginning to define the diverse functions of these proteins and in so doing revealing their importance in a variety of cellular processes that are vital for normal cell function. Furthermore, it has become apparent that defects in sorting nexins underlie a variety of human diseases including neurodegenerative diseases.