My research expertise is in the area of membrane-cytoskeletal interactions and membrane protein interactions during the process of phagocytosis and the related phenomenon of cell-substrate adhesion. Using the cellular slime mold Dictyostelium discoideum (a harmless soil amoebae) as a model for phagocytes, project goals include: 1) identifying plasma membrane proteins involved in the phagocytosis process; 2) exploring the mechanisms and regulation of the signal transduction pathways mediated by these molecules; and 3) the regulation of phagosome formation and fusion with endosomes.
Presently, we are focused on a plasma membrane glycoprotein, gp130, that is exposed on the surface of amoebae of D. discoideum. We are interested in its role possibly as a phagocytosis receptor and/or adhesion molecule. By modifying the gene for gp130, we are generating cell lines that either have an inactive gene, or produce mutant forms of gp130. We are also constructing green fluorescent protein variants of gp130 that will allow us to monitor the fate of gp130 in real time. Biochemical and molecular genetic methods, as well as microscopy will be used to study the behavior of the cells and thus provide insights into the in vivo function of gp130.