Room 303, Tower A, JCG-PCR Science Block, Department of Chemistry, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Kharagpur, West Bengal, India 721302
Research in our laboratory aims at understanding biological processes at the molecular level through the lens of physical chemistry. We primarily investigate the processes underlying cell’s response to environmental cues/signals (e.g., chemotaxis in response to external chemical stimuli). This is done by a set of plasma membrane bound proteins (such as transmembrane receptors, sensors, and ion channels) that is poised to respond to the environmental changes and initiate an array of biochemical reactions eventually leading to intracellular signal transduction. A key biophysical characteristic of the plasma membrane is its capacity to undergo liquid-liquid phase separation through collectives of lipid-lipid, protein-lipid, and protein-protein interactions. Interestingly, our current work provides strong evidence that phase separation orchestrates the optimality of the plasma membrane localized biochemical reactions necessary for regular cellular functions. This also implies that alternation of membrane phase separation may have non-physiological consequences leading to diseases such as cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. We employ a wide variety of high resolution fluorescence microscopy and spectroscopy techniques (e.g., super-resolution microscopy, various modalities of fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS), Fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM), single particle tracking, and fluorescence anisotropy) as well as complementary biochemical tools to build the link between membrane biophysics and signalling. We currently focus on two signalling systems involving FcεRI receptor and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) which are key components of our body’s innate immune machinery and development respectively.