The next time you enjoy a meal, take a moment to marvel how your body can digest such a vast array of foods. With the availability of the complete genome sequences of organisms from yeast to man, we now know the full catalogue of genes for each. However, such lists only hint at how organisms process nutrients. Each cell in our bodies must take in nutrients to maintain itself. If so directed by environmental cues, our cells alter their metabolism in order to produce the building blocks necessary to divide. Now, new tools for chemical analysis permit the study of the metabolome, the chemical intermediates of cellular metabolism.
There are two tremendous gaps in our understanding of cell metabolism. First, there are many chemical reactions that are known to occur as cells break down nutrients, yet we do not know the genes that enable these reactions. Second, recent technological advances in mass spectrometry and NMR have detected hundreds of chemicals in cells that are not predicted by our charts of metabolism.
I am working to characterize the chemical reactions carried out by enzymes of unknown function and place them in context of cellular metabolism and disease. Recently, I discovered riboneogenesis, a new metabolic route for the production of ribose, which is a key building block of both our genes (as DNA) and of how those genes are expressed (as RNA). My lab is working to understand the role of riboneogenesis, and to identify other new metabolic pathways.
For more information on my work, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org