Molecular mechanisms of retrograde transport

A single human cell is made up of many small organelles (compartments). Through a process known as vesicle transport, proteins and lipids move from one compartment to another to support and maintain cell function. Motor nerve cell diseases are progressive disorders involving the nerve cells responsible for carrying impulses that instruct the muscles in the upper and lower body to move. Abnormal vesicle transport causes a family of these devastating diseases, including Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS). Abnormal vesicle transport has also been found in Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, and Neimann-Pick C disease, suggesting that these abnormalities also play a role in the development of these diseases. To better understand these diseases and hopefully lead to improved treatments, Dr. Benjamen Montpetit is focusing his research on determining how vesicle transport works. Montpetit, who received MSFHR trainee awards in 2002 and 2006 in support of his PhD research, is studying the process in yeast with the aid of robotic-based systems. Yeast makes an excellent model for his research because the yeast genome has been fully sequenced and, therefore, its genetic code is known.