The lab is focused on two main research areas that are linked by glucan phosphatases. First, we study fundamental questions addressing the nature and mechanisms of glycogen metabolism and how mis-regulation of these signaling events leads to the neurodegenerative epilepsy called Lafora disease (LD). This work is funded by an NINDS R01 as well as a Mizutani Glycoscience Foundation award. This project is centered on the regulation, signaling, and dynamics of the glucan phosphatase laforin, which is mutated in LD. Second, we study the role of glucan phosphatases in starch metabolism in plants and algae, and this work is funded by an NSF CAREER award. One goal of this project is to determine how glucan phosphatases could be harnessed in starch-based industrial manufacturing and biofuels. Thus, our work uniquely links neurodegeneration with biofuels research.
We utilize a multidisciplinary approach that employs methodologies of cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, structural biology, and bioinformatics. We employ cell culture systems to generate hypotheses; we test these hypotheses in vitro using purified proteins; we confirm these results using mouse, plant, and algal models; and we define molecular mechanisms of the enzymes using structural biology.