Work in our lab covers a broad range of topics unified by one theme: the protein-folding problem. Through biochemistry and genetics we investigate the mechanisms of protein folding and the consequences of misfolding. Because protein-folding problems are universal, we move back and forth between simple and complex organisms (yeast, rodents, and human cells). We investigate how protein conformational changes provide epigenetic mechanisms of inheritance, sculpt phenotypic landscapes, shape evolutionary process, and cause devastating neurodegenerative diseases. We are also making progress in deciphering the enigmatic structures of prions and amyloids. One implication of our work is that the protein-folding problem isn’t always a problem. The very same types of misfoldings that cause dreadful diseases in some circumstances can have beneficial effects in others. The protein-folding problem is as ancient as life itself; it makes sense that evolution would occasionally, perhaps even often, use it to advantage.
Please see our Research page for more information about the various avenues of research in the lab.