Our research group uses biochemical, biophysical and spectrosopic tools to characterize the structure and dynamics of membranes and membrane proteins. We are currently determining the molecular mechanisms that mediate membrane transport and the mechanisms that regulate and trigger membrane fusion in neuronal exocytosis (the process that leads to neurotransmitter release in the central nervous system).

Membrane proteins represent one of the most significant challenges in the field of structural biology.  The majority of pharmaceuticals currently in use are believed to target membrane proteins and they represent a large fraction of the proteins expressed by the cell (30 to 40%); yet, only a small fraction of the structures in the Protein Data Bank are membrane proteins. Even in cases where high-resolution structures are available for membrane proteins, the mechanisms by which they function are typically uncharacterized.  What is lacking in these cases is information on dynamics and alternate structural forms that are in equilibrium in bilayers but not revealed by crystallography.