(2hz) Leveraging Membrane Biophysical Features for Enhanced Functionality of Cell-Mimetic Systems | AIChE

(2hz) Leveraging Membrane Biophysical Features for Enhanced Functionality of Cell-Mimetic Systems


Peruzzi, J. - Presenter, Northwestern University
Biological membranes enable cellular compartmentalization, separating cells from the outside environment and allowing them to retain and concentrate integral components. Beyond cellular boundaries, eukaryotic cells possess intracellular compartments which allow diverse reactions to occur simultaneously within one cell. To interact with the exterior environment and coordinate intracellular functions, cells have evolved methods to direct information transfer across membranes such as vesicle-mediated cargo transport within and between cells and transmembrane signaling and transport mediated by membrane proteins. These integral processes depend on interactions between a wide array of membrane components, including proteins and lipids. However, the impact of specific components on signaling phenomena is not well-characterized due to the complexity of cellular systems.

As a doctoral student with Professor Neha Kamat, I have leveraged bottom-up approaches to characterize how physiochemical properties of specific membrane components affect membrane mediated signaling processes. Specifically, I leveraged cell-free protein synthesis systems and synthetic membranes to selectively deliver cargo, control lipid-protein and protein-protein interactions, and transduce signals across membranes. Together, these studies highlight how biophysical interactions within the membrane contribute to phenomena, such as vesicle delivery and protein organization, observed in cellular systems. Further, these studies led to the creation of more complex cell-mimetic systems with enhanced biosensing and therapeutic capabilities and lay the groundwork for future design of membrane-based materials.

Research Interests:

I am interested in pursuing a post-doctoral position where I can continue to explore and engineer membrane biophysics in cellular systems. Towards the end of my doctoral research, I began to use bioinformatics to guide the engineering of lipid-protein interactions for therapeutic applications in cells. Moving forward, I would like to apply and build upon principles that I characterized in cell-free systems in cellular contexts. Some research topics of interest include: De novo membrane protein design (and more broadly synthetic protein receptor engineering), engineering of lipid metabolism to tune membrane biophysical features, and membrane interfacial phenomena (especially related to liquid-liquid phase separation and signaling). I am also very interested in high-throughput assay development and applying big data and machine learning to tackle problems in biology.