Understanding signal integration in eukaryotic cell growth
Dr Christopher Aylett
Imperial College London
When cells decide whether or not to grow, they take into account many considerations about their environment – whether there are enough nutrients and oxygen, the outside conditions, whether the body needs to grow and if they are in the right place. Incorrect interpretations can result in tumours and allergies. We know that most of these signals activate a protein called target of rapamycin (TOR), but it is still unclear which are considered more important, or how they are combined.
This project will understand how signals are interpreted just upstream of TOR in molecular detail. We will produce the proteins responsible for carrying these signals and get them to work outside of the cell. Known incoming signals could then be applied in a controlled environment to pick apart their effects. We would also try to look at the signalling process directly using electron microscopes or light sources to visualise the molecules and understand how they work.
Our findings will improve our understanding of how the decision for a cell to grow is made and would be applicable to immunology, oncology, metabolic conditions such as diabetes, and possibly our understanding of neurology and ageing.