The Swan lab studies membrane traffic- the process by which cells export, sort and remodel cellular membranes and their cargoes. This process regulates how individual cells react to their neighbours and their environment, and subsequent cellular signalling and cellular growth. For membranes to do this job, the sorting systems in the cell need to be able to recognise where in the cell a given membrane is and what functional state it is in, so that the appropriate proteins can be recruited to process the membrane further. One of the key determinants of membrane identity is a class of lipids called phosphoinositide lipids (PIPs).
Dr Laura Swan PhD
PIPs have a cytosolic inositol ring which can be reversibly phosphorylated by PIP kinases and phosphatases. This produces seven different lipid species which are recognised by membrane trafficking and signalling proteins. Conversion of one PIP species to another directs membrane flow, and any defects in membrane trafficking can highly specific and serious consequences, from cancers, psychiatric disorders and congenital disorders. We study membrane traffic in general, concentrating on PIP metabolising enzymes, using live cellular imaging, optogenetics, biochemistry, lipid enzymology and genetic models.
Personal Statement: I've had a rather diverse career, taking first class Honours in an accelerated degree in Theoretical Physics at Monash University Australia, studying the electrical properties of carbon nanotubes, before changing field and studying a PhD in Neuroscience at the European Neuroscience Institute, Goettingen, Germany- a collaboration between the University of Goettingen and the Max Planck for Biophysical Chemistry. There I studied neurotransmitter receptor trafficking in the Drosophila model, concentrating on a wholly unexpected phenotype of the the Glutamate Receptor trafficking factor GRIP, and its integrative function in receptor trafficking for myogenesis. For there, I continued my interest in membrane trafficking, spending seven years in the laboratory of Pietro De Camilli, Yale School of Medicine, where I specialized in phosphoinositide lipids (PIPs) and their role in defining organelle identity and shaping membrane deformation and traffic. This interest I have continued in my own lab- studying rare endosomal lipids and their contribution to congenital nervous system disorders and cancers.
Here are images from some of our work.
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