How are newly synthesized membrane proteins targeted to the correct intracellular membrane? Once there, how are they inserted into the bilayer, and then folded, modified and assembled into functional entities? A major focus in the lab is the study of co- and post-translational targeting and insertion pathways. Our long-term goal is to decipher common structural and mechanistic themes in membrane protein biogenesis.


How do cells eliminate newly synthesized membrane proteins that fail to properly engage the targeting and insertion machinery? What happens if they are inserted into the wrong membrane? Or when a properly inserted membrane protein becomes damaged? To help protect against damage caused by such events, cells have evolved complex pathways that identify and destroy misfolded and/or mislocalized membrane proteins.

Membrane proteins are essential for the survival of all living organisms. Dysfunction is linked to numerous human pathologies, ranging from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. We use a combination of structural, biochemical and cell biology approaches to define the molecular mechanims underlying the cellular pathways that maintain the membrane proteome.

Keenan Lab UChicago