Award

Postdoc wins Tabor award
for lipid membrane research

Dawn Hayward
Jan. 1, 2018

Lipid membranes surround and protect each of our cells. They serve as a first line of defense, allow for intracellular signaling and keep subcellular compartments separate. The lipid composition must therefore be diverse and distinctive enough to keep a cell running smoothly. Figuring out which lipids are needed where and when can be challenging, however. Itay Budin, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, studies lipid properties and why certain ones belong in specific cell membranes. For his research, Budin received a 2017 Journal of Biological Chemistry/Herbert Tabor Young Investigator Award.

Itay Budin is a Miller Institute junior fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, and works at the Joint BioEnergy Institute. courtesy of Itay Budin

Budin investigates how lipid composition affects membrane properties and the consequences of altering particular lipids in model organisms. Lipids make up cellular and subcellular membranes and help maintain integrity and compartmentalization. However, manipulation of these lipids to understand their roles has been done primarily in vitro, and tools to recapitulate findings within living organisms are difficult to develop. Budin uses metabolic engineering to explore lipid composition and functionality. He explained that he does this by altering the genes that give rise to particular lipids. He is then able to “rewire” these pathways within the organism to understand which lipids are necessary for a particular membrane and why. Budin and colleagues have learned that a cell’s membrane can act as an environmental sensor, and a particular set of proteins then responds to maintain homeostasis. This work was published in May 2017 in the journal Metabolic Engineering.

JBC Associate Editor Dennis Voelker presented the award to Budin in August at the 2017 Gordon Research Conference on Molecular and Cell Biology of Lipids. Receiving the award was a “great honor and real thrill,” Budin said, and receiving it from Voelker, a lipid biologist, reinforced the importance of his work. The award committee thought Budin’s work was instrumental in “assigning a crucial mechanistic role for unsaturated lipids in serving as molecular signals that liberate transcription factors from the endoplasmic reticulum in response to a variety of stimuli,” they wrote with input from Voelker.

Budin earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry and physical biology from Harvard University in the laboratory of Jack W. Szostak investigating the changes in lipid composition throughout evolution. He then came to the University of California, Berkeley, on a Miller Institute Junior Fellowship. He works with Jay Keasling at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, a research center in Berkeley focused on synthetic biology and metabolic engineering.

Enjoy reading ASBMB Today?

Become a member to receive the print edition monthly and the digital edition weekly.

Learn more
Dawn Hayward

Dawn Hayward earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine

Get the latest from ASBMB Today

Enter your email address, and we’ll send you a weekly email with recent articles, interviews and more.

Latest in People

People highlights or most popular articles

‘With advances in mass spectrometry, we can explore terra incognita’
Interview

‘With advances in mass spectrometry, we can explore terra incognita’

Sept. 29, 2022

A conversation with Molecular & Cellular Proteomics associate editor Albert Heck, a researcher at Utrecht University.

In memoriam: Clark Bublitz
In Memoriam

In memoriam: Clark Bublitz

Sept. 26, 2022

He was a metabolic enzymologist and a member of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology since 1963.

Understanding protein dynamics to design better drugs
Research Spotlight

Understanding protein dynamics to design better drugs

Sept. 21, 2022

C. Denise Okafor is an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Penn State and recipient of an NSF CAREER award.

Computation is the new experiment
Annual Meeting

Computation is the new experiment

Sept. 20, 2022

This symposium, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Structural Biology, Drug Design and Systems Biology. will be part of #DiscoverBMB 2023 in March.

Kuriyan to take over as dean;  Johnson wins Pew scholarship
Member News

Kuriyan to take over as dean; Johnson wins Pew scholarship

Sept. 19, 2022

Awards, promotions, milestones and more. Find out what's going on in the lives of ASBMB members.

'Keep developing your expertise'
Interview

'Keep developing your expertise'

Sept. 16, 2022

Anand Balakrishnan is a biochemist at Enanta Pharmaceuticals. He leads a team that has worked on respiratory syncytial virus, SARS-CoV-2 and hepatitis B virus.