Lipid droplets are cellular stores of neutral lipids that accumulate during favourable growth conditions. However when autophagy activity in cells increases in response to unfavourable growth conditions, lipid droplets help ‘fuel’ this response, as they are actively broken down to their constituent fatty acids.
Our laboratory is investigating the cellular mechanisms that regulate the formation and breakdown of lipid droplets in response to changes in the external environment of a cell, and how the addition of fatty acids to cells can activate autophagy under nutrient-rich conditions – thereby acting as a caloric restriction mimetic.
Image shows maximum intensity projection of a cultured Huh-7 (hepatocyte carcinoma) cell stained with Hoechst 33342 (DNA-blue), DiOC6 (membranes-green) and LD540 (lipid droplets-red). The image was captured by structured illumination microscopy (SIM) on a Nikon super resolution microscope. Image acquired by Richard Byrne.