Exploring the Private Lives of Biological Membranes through Lipid Engineering

Friday, January 17, 2020 -
2:00pm to 3:00pm
FUNG Auditorium
Itay Budin
Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of California San Diego


Exploring the Private Lives of Biological Membranes through Lipid Engineering


Lipids are an underexplored class of biomolecules with central roles in human health and biotechnology. Biological systems regulate their lipid composition to tune the physicochemical properties of their cell membranes. Understanding the functional roles for different lipid species remains a challenge, however, because of limited tools for manipulating membrane composition in vivo. Our lab harnesses synthetic and chemical biology approaches to investigate and engineer the lipid biology of cells. New genetic approaches have allowed us to elucidate how lipid-controlled properties of membranes – such as their viscosity – can mediate central processes in metabolism, gene regulation, and chemical tolerance. These efforts are aided by emerging tools for characterizing and imaging membrane structure with high spatiotemporal resolution. Recent work in invertebrate model systems are motivating us to study how lipid dysregulation driven by diet and disease can cause physiological and behavioral changes in complex organisms.



Itay Budin received his BS in Bioengineering at Cornell University and his PhD in Engineering and Physical Biology at Harvard University. At Harvard, Itay worked with Jack Szostak on understanding physical processes underlying the growth and division of synthetic cells, for which he received a Harold M. Weintraub Award for top biomedical dissertations in the country. Itay then went on to a Miller Junior Fellowship at UC Berkeley, where he worked with Jay Keasling at the Joint Bioenergy Institute. There, he developed a research program that uses the rational engineering of lipid metabolism to study membrane biophysics in living cells. For this work, he was awarded the Herb Tabor Young Investigator Award by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Itay recently joined the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry of UCSD, where he is an Assistant Professor in the Section of Biochemistry and Biophysics.