September 2012

Lipids and membranes uncensored: The devil is in the greasy details


Lipid Signaling in Health & Disease
Lipid Membrane Curvature in Membrane Function
Lipid Trafficking & Sorting
Lipids in Nutrient Metabolism & Metabolic Dysfunction

For more details, go to the ASBMB 2013 meeting program page and click to expand “Lipids and Membranes.”

Although the past several decades have seen the role of lipids expand from mere structural cellular components to signaling mediators and regulators of protein function, the integral roles that these macromolecules are known to play in coordinating physiological and pathophysiological functions are ever increasing.

Identifying novel roles for lipids and membranes in biological processes has been facilitated by the development of innovative analytical and biophysical techniques, including live-cell, single-organelle imaging, mass spectrometry and fluorescence microscopy.

The integration of novel experimental approaches with classical biochemistry and in vivo rodent models has had a profound impact on our understanding of lipid biology and revealed many unexpected roles for these molecules. Indeed, it is now becoming apparent that the local lipid environment plays a critical role in dictating protein function and thus cell physiology.

Intriguingly, a recent research emphasis on the intricate synergy between the shape of cellular membranes and their function is beginning to yield mechanistic insight into localized signaling, trafficking and protein sorting.

The impact of signal transduction cascades on lipid homeostasis in distinct organelles is also an important mechanism for controlling cell function. For example, nuclear phospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism is emerging as a key regulator of gene expression.

Moreover, a growing body of discoveries is defining new roles for detergent molecules such as bile acids as prominent contributors to metabolic dysfunction.

Mechanistic insight into the roles that sphingolipids, glycolipids and phosphoinositol phosphates play in the etiology of cancer, cardiomyopathy, inflammation, and type II diabetes is becoming apparent.


Photo of Tobias BaumgartPhoto of Marion B. SewerTobias Baumgart ( is an associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Marion B. Sewer ( is an associate professor at the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California, San Diego.

ASBMB annual meeting grassy knoll graphic
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