The Urban Lab studies the function and evolution of highly-conserved signalling pathways in diverse organisms. Our current focus is signal initiation that is regulated by rhomboid intramembrane proteases. In particular we are interested in:
1. How is hydrolysis within membrane environments accomplished by intramembrane proteases and how is specificity achieved?
2. What is the role of rhomboid proteases in protozoan pathogens Toxoplasma and the malaria parasite?
3. What can we learn about the function of rhomboid intramembrane proteolysis and signalling throughout evolution?
We are using a combination of membrane biochemistry, cell biology, and synthetic chemistry to address these issues. Our studies may have therapeutic implications since intramembrane proteolysis plays a central role in Alzheimer’s disease pathogenesis, and Toxoplasma is the leading cause of neurologic birth disorders.