Skip to main content
Presentation Time: 1:30-1:50
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Gregory Miner, Cellular Physiology
Program: SMART
Research Title: Construction and Validation of Dimerization Dependent Fluorescent Probes to Visualize Lipid Droplet - Organelle Contacts

Lipid droplets (LDs) are a vital metabolic center of cells. Among other functions, LDs are specialized in storing diverse classes of lipids. LDs serve three critical purposes: LDs are energy reservoirs, a source for building-blocks for the organelle membrane system and are active in communication. In order to fulfill these functions, LDs need to communicate with other organelles. However, the structure of LDs (phospholipid monolayer) is not compatible with regular fusion of bilayer bounded structures. As a result, the way LDs are forced to communicate with other organelles is by creating contact sites with other cell compartments to exchange lipids. However, exactly which lipids are being transferred, the direction of this transfer, and how these LD-organelle contacts are regulated is unknown. The objective of our lab is to study the physiological function of these LD-organelle contacts. To achieve this objective, our lab uses confocal microscopy to study organelle dynamics, contacts, and lipid trafficking within and between cells. We are generating and testing new dimerization-dependent fluorescent probes to visualize LD-organelle contact sites and observe the dynamics of these contacts overtime. We have successfully created the lipid-droplet-mitochondria and the lipid-droplet-peroxisome dimerization probes. Going forward, we will be working on creating the LD-ER, LD-lysosome, and the LD-plasma dimerization probes. Our initial focus will be using our LD-Mitochondria probe to study the effects of metabolic stressors on LD-Mitochondria contacts.