Membrane trafficking is a fundamental activity in cellular biosynthesis, secretion and endocytosis. It enables cells to interact with their surroundings and supports cell growth, proliferation and migration. Within cells, membrane-bounded carriers serve as shuttles that link specialized compartments with the cell surface in a highly organized and dynamic network. Trafficking within the network supports intercellular communication and construction of extracellular matrix through secretion, nutrient import and processing of extracellular signals through endocytosis, and periodic turnover and renewal of cellular organelles. Unfortunately, membrane trafficking also facilitates invasion of cells by pathogenic microorganisms, and trafficking defects occur in several diseases. Thus the mechanisms of membrane trafficking are central to both cellular physiology and pathology. Research in the Department of Cell Biology addresses both the physiological and pathological aspects of membrane trafficking. Individual programs employ a wide range of microscopic imaging, biochemical, molecular genetic and biophysical approaches to study the cellular machinery of endocytosis, regulation of trafficking of cell surface receptors and transporters, exo-endocytic coupling in neuroendocrine secretion, role of caveolae in membrane dynamics, invasion of cells by pathogenic bacteria, and viral entry into cells by endocytosis and membrane fusion.
Image courtesy of Pfister lab.