Establishing a common function for ferlin proteins in membrane fusion using novel genetic code expansion and single molecule techniques.

NSF Proposal

Much of what we know about how the components of eukaryotic cells traffic between the different organelles comes from studies with yeast, as the basic machinery in that unicellular organism is common to multicellular organisms as well. However, multicellular organisms have additional genes associated with membrane transport processes. An important membrane trafficking protein family not present in yeast are the ferlins, an evolutionary ancient family of trafficking proteins linked to an increasingly diverse list of physiological activities, including fertility, the encoding of sound, muscle development, and repair of damaged cell membranes. This diversity of physiological roles has made establishing a common underlying molecular function for this family challenging. This project will address this gap in our knowledge of the ferlin family of proteins, and in so doing add to our understanding of fertility, hearing, and muscle development. The proposed work will also develop undergraduate laboratory research training opportunities and lab classes focused on membrane biology and provide graduate students with state-of-the-art training in interdisciplinary research

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