We are interested in studying nature's own border patrol - the cell membrane. We study the physical behavior of lipid molecules in model membranes using deuterium nuclear magnetic resonance (2H NMR) spectroscopy.
Cell membranes are complex assemblies of lipids and proteins held together by lipids' natural tendency to form bilayer structures. Nearly all biological membranes exist in a liquid crystalline 'bilayer' physical state, where membrane components can diffuse within their monolayer but cannot spontaneously hop to the other side of the membrane.
Since lipids are amphiphilic and water - the biological solvent - is polar, lipids tend to spontaneously self assemble into supramolecular aggregates. The hydrophilic lipid heads like to position themselves in such a way that they are hydrated by the water while keeping the hydrophobic ends tucked away.
The knowledge gained from the work we do aids cell biologists investigating phenomena related to membrane domains, e.g. programmed cell death, protein localization/signaling, neuronal maturation and bacterial/viral infection.
For more details, visit our research lab website.
- Keyvanloo A, Shaghaghi M, Zuckermann MJ, and Thewalt JL. The Phase Behavior and Organization of Sphingomyelin/Cholesterol Membranes: A Deuterium NMR Study. Biophys J. 2018 May 27. 114(6): 1344-1356.
- Thewalt JL. Essential Insights into Lipid Membrane Organization from Essential Fatty Acids. Biophys J. 2018 Jan 23. 114(2): 254-255.
- Leung SSW and Thewalt JL. Link between Fluorescent Probe Partitioning and Molecular Order of Liquid Ordered-Liquid Disordered Membranes. Journal of Physical Chemistry B. 2017 Feb 16. 121(6): 1176-1185.