Sattlegger Lab


   for an updated list of funding see bottom of page 

Research focus:                                                   Biomedical Sciences    

Using yeast to understand health related aspects, in combination with cell culture experiments.  Yeast is amenable to many experimental techniques, and very helpful for biomedical studies as molecular mechanisms are highly conserved in Eukaryotes, from yeast to humans.  For brain-related studies see below.  Our current interest is in understanding how the enzyme Gcn2 becomes activated, since it has been found to support cancer cell growth, tumour growth, and angiogenesis.  Once we know exactly the mechanism of Gcn2 activation, this will allow us to predict ways of how a drug could inhibit Gcn2 activation and thereby prevent tumour growth.  Due to the confidentiality of our projects unfortunately we cannot write more about this.  We are always open to more projects and collaborations.

 Research focus:                                            Biotechnology / Industry     

Using yeast for expressing proteins of biotechnological relevance, or using yeast as a live indicator or test system. Furthermore, Dr Sattlegger is involved in implementing/applying molecular techniques for microbiological diagnostics, that are of industrial relevance and interest.  Due to the confidentiality of these projects unfortunately we cannot write more about this. We are always open to more projects and collaborations.

 Research focus:                                                             Basic research    

How do cells sense nutrient starvation and other stress conditions, and how is this information processed further so that at the end the cell adjusts optimally to the environment?  These are very important processes because environmental conditions change constantly.  Amino acids are particularly important nutrients, because as constituents of proteins, they execute almost all biological functions.  Two particular proteins, GCN1 and GCN2, are evolutionary highly conserved and are essential for every Eukaryotic cell - from baker’s yeast to humans - to detect and cope with amino acid hunger.  Interestingly, recent findings suggest that GCN2 has additional functions in higher eukaryotes, e.g. GCN2 functions in the mammalian brain to develop aversion against amino acid-imbalanced food, is important for the formation of long term memory, and may be involved in selectively silencing the immune system.  Thus, GCN2-function has been re-used during evolution for additional complex ‘highly evolved’ functions, however, so far the exact mechanisms of GCN2 action remain obscure, and the role of GCN1 has not been explored so far.  In order to unravel complex highly-evolved processes involving GCN2, we first need to first understand how GCN2 executes its universal cellular function, i.e. sensing amino acid hunger, and how other proteins finetune the action of GCN2.  Our goal is to unravel these mechanisms by using a simple eukaryotic model organism, baker’s / brewer’s yeast.  Due to the high evolutionary conservation of the studied regulatory system, our work will be of high relevance for understanding the universal functions of GCN2, and how these are intertwined with other molecular mechanisms in the cell.  Our studies will also be of importance for understanding the more complex GCN2-functions in higher eukaryotes.  For example we are using yeast to understand the function of a brain protein in regulating Gcn2.  We are always open to more projects and collaborations.

 Relevance                                                                              Relevance    

Our research has a large variety of applications which in part are overlapping.  For example: Health: Exact knowledge of GCN2-function will help to fight disorders that involve GCN2 such as Alzheimer’s disease, other neurological disorders, rejection of organ transplants, viral defense, virulence of Eukaryotic pathogens (e.g. fungi), eating disorders, drug side effects, heart disease, cancer.  Biotechnology: See above.  Furthermore, the fact that GCN2 regulates protein synthesis, and thereby the performance of cells, this implies that knowledge of its exact function will aid in the improvement of organisms for biotechnological applications.  Basic research: Our work offers opportunities to explore the fascinating complexity of protein functions and of cross-regulations of signaling pathways.  Basic knowledge forms the crucial foundation for health and applied research.  Student training:  Yeast is very easy to handle, non toxic, cheap to maintain, fast growing, and it can be used to learn a large array of techniques.  Yeast allows comprehensive studies as it is amenable to a large variety of techniques, such as molecular, biochemical, cellular and genetic techniques, all techniques used in Biotechnology, which we all employ. 

 Funding                                                                                    Funding     

Past and present funding, in alphabetical order:

Auckland Medical Research Foundation
Breast Cancer Cure
Breast Cancer Foundation of New Zealand
Bayer Pharma AG (Germany)
Health Research Council (HRC)
International Mobility Fund, Royal Society of New Zealand
International Science and Technology (ISAT) Linkages Fund
Marsden Fund, The Royal Society of New Zealand
Massey University
Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust
Nutricia Research Foundation (The Netherlands)
Private Funders

Thank you very much for your support!!! 

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