How chemical signals allow cells to co-ordinate, communicate and adapt to changes

Nerve cross sectionWhat is signalling?

We study the proteins that control communication within and between cells. They make up the signalling pathways that regulate how cells develop and respond to their environment, and are critical for ensuring the lifelong health and wellbeing of an individual.

A common theme in all pathways is that key information is carried into the cell by molecules called lipids, which interact with various enzymes, each regulating different pathways.

A major focus of our research is the activity of the PI3 Kinase enzymes, critical for a number of cellular functions, including movement, growth and survival.

PeyersWhy is it important?

One of the keys to understanding lifelong health is to understand the signalling pathways that operate inside cells and govern key fate decisions such as cell death, cell survival, cell division or cell senescence.

Ageing results in part from the imbalance between cellular damage, accrued throughout life, and the progressive decline in stress response and repair pathways.

Older people have reduced ability to fight infection, partly due to a decline in neutrophil migration to sites of infection, and activation of neutrophils at inappropriate locations that damages otherwise healthy cells, resulting in disease.

PurkinjeWhat is our research?

We are studying a number of pathways, including how neurons survive following damage, the pathways activated to protect the cell against the presence of toxic chemicals and the pathways triggered in response to environmental stress.

For cells to grow there must be both available nutrients and positive signals from proteins responding to environmental stimuli.

Suppression of a single protein, mTOR, which acts as a quality control step activity can result in increased lifespan through an unknown mechanism and we will attempt to reveal this.

Signalling Feature

Our 2018 Annual Research Report includes feature articles highlighting some of the themes that each research programme is working on.

The Signalling feature "Welcome to the lipidome", examines the explosion in the field of lipidomics and the potential for a greater understanding of lipids to contribute to better health.

"Once neglected as too dull to study and too sticky to work with, lipids are at last stepping out of the shadows. Institute Director Michael Wakelam and lipidomics facility manager Andrea Lopez-Clavijo explain the challenges of working with these cellular Cinderellas and share their excitement of research in a field that’s finally giving up its secrets...." continue reading