W. Mike Henne
W. Mike Henne -
AFAR Research Grants for Junior Faculty - 2015
W. Mike Henne

W. Mike Henne

Assistant Professor - University of Texas, Southwest Medical Center
Texas, United States


AFAR Research Grants for Junior Faculty - 2015

Novel ER-lysosome inter-organelle tethers in lipid metabolism and aging

Lipid metabolism, the process by which fats are digested or stored in the human body, is essential to healthy cell function. A decline in lipid metabolism is associated with aging and a myriad of diseases ranging from diabetes to heart failure.

While connections between fatty acid lipid metabolism and longevity are well established, the underlying molecular mechanisms that govern this association remain unclear. However, a new perspective on lipid metabolism is emerging from studies of inter-organelle membrane contact sites (MCSs). Observed for decades by electron microscopy but mostly ignored, inter-organelle MCSs are now recognized as unique microenvironments that govern important cellular pathways including organelle-organelle lipid exchange, metabolism, and signaling.

Dr. Henne’s recent work with collaborator Dr. Jon Graff using fruit flies shows that mutations to a protein called Snazurus (Snz) cause flies to accumulate lipids and become obese, yet remarkably live twice as long as “normal” flies. While the reason for this enhanced longevity is unclear, Dr. Henne recently discovered that Snz belongs to a family of proteins that function as molecular bridges that “tether” cellular organelles together.

Dr. Henne’s lab focuses on understanding how these inter-organelle “tethers” function in inter-organelle communication, lipid metabolism, and ultimately aging and longevity. This understanding could help lead to new therapies for aging-related diseases such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, heart disease, and obesity.

View all grantees for AFAR Research Grants for Junior Faculty in 2015

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