Cells serve to organize the biochemical machinery of living organisms and must integrate and control the effects of a plethora of possible metabolic pathways. Cell biologists have a goal of understanding how this occurs. Some of the questions we are asking include the following: 1) How do cells sense their environment and how do they transduce environmental cues across the plasma membrane? 2) How are proteins targeted to specific sites in the cell? 3) How are organelles generated and maintained in eukaryotic cells? 4) Cells need to balance biosynthesis with turnover, so how are proteins and organelles targeted for degradation? What types of quality control processes allow damaged or superfluous proteins, membranes, etc. to be recognized and dealt with appropriately?
Cell biology research in the department encompasses bacterial, yeast, plant and animal systems. Several labs study organelle biogenesis and function, including the endoplasmic reticulum, the Golgi complex, the peroxisome, vacuole/lysosome and the nucleus. Autophagy and pseudohyphal growth, stimulated by limiting nutrients, is another focus. Other groups study the cellular response to hypoxia or oxidative stress, as well as signal transduction. The techniques employed to study these questions include both in vitro (e.g., biochemistry and biophysics) and in vivo studies (e.g., genetics and a variety of sophisticated microscopy techniques) as well as high-throughput analyses that utilize microarrays, mass spectrometry and other functional genomic approaches.