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PhD Candidate Lee Dolat and Biology Professor Elias Spiliotis Published in Journal of Cell Biology

Image of macropinosome fusion by Lee Dolat and Elias Spiliotis

September 8, 2016

Cancers are hungry beasts, which in part sustain their uncontrolled proliferation by eating amino acids and other compounds from the interstitial fluid that bathes their surrounding tissues. Cancer cells gobble up fluid and particles by a process termed macropinocytosis, which is the internalization of extracellular material by cell membrane ruffles that close into organelles known as macropinosomes. Many oncogenes boost macropinocytosis, enhancing the proliferation of a growing cancer.  Macropinocytosis, however, is a poorly studied process. Little is known about how macropinosomes deliver their contents to the lysosome, an organelle that is critical for cellular metabolism and growth.

In the August 29 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, graduate student Lee Dolat and Professor Elias Spiliotis published a research study that sheds light on the molecular mechanisms of macropinosome maturation and fusion with the lysosome. Using state-of-the-art imaging, gene-targeting approaches, cellular and cell-free in vitro assays, they demonstrate that macropinosome fusion with the lysosome is facilitated by a family of proteins termed septins, which are abnormally expressed in many cancers. This study is featured in a video produced for the Journal of Cell Biology’s biosights podcast. The video narrates the scientific work, featuring data and sound clips from a telephone interview with Professor Spiliotis.

View the full abstract "Septins promote macropinosome maturation and traffic to the lysosome by facilitating membrane fusion"

Watch the video (with journal description)