Membrane fusion is ubiquitous in the biology of membranes and integral to neurotransmission, vesicle trafficking, cellular communication and viral infection. Membrane fusion is a non-spontaneous process with high-energy and highly curved intermediates that are catalyzed by fusion proteins. Our laboratory investigates the mechanism of membrane fusion in viral infection and neurotransmission.
Curvature is inherent to the morphology of membranes, and it underpins the mechanism of membrane fusion. Certain organelles, such as the endoplasmic reticulum and the cristae of mitochondria, have highly curved membranes. Cells regulate membrane curvature with proteins and with lipid composition, utilizing lipids such as cardiolipins.
Previous studies focus on changes in the bulk properties of membranes, losing important information on the curvature effects of individual membrane components or the cooperativity of membrane curvature. We use NMR to measure membrane curvature and answer new questions on localized and microscopic membrane curvature, curvature cooperativity and changes in membrane structure with native lipids from eukaryotic tissues.