Woodshole, Massachusetts, USA
National Centre for Biological Research,Bangalore
Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bangalore
National Centre for Biological Research (NCBS), Bangalore/Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem), Bangalore
As undergraduate at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay in the Mechanical engineering department, I ended up with an MSc. in Chemistry. This was a truly interdisciplinary adventure that unbeknownst to me was to shape my outlook on understanding fundamental cellular mechanisms. My desire to study Biology in the early 80’s was at odds with what was possible at the IITs at that time, and I joined the Chemistry department where only person who was interested in Biology, Dr. Anil Lala was located. Anil was starting as a new faculty member at this time and a brilliant chemist, practicing what we would now call chemical biology. Anil was attempting to study the structure of membrane inserted polypeptides using photo-activatable probes that he had designed, and soon I was hooked. Looking back at my trajectory in science, I can see the influence of this interest in understanding membrane structure and function that guided the choices I have made. First, in joining the Laboratory of Parasitology under Prof. George Cross at the Rockefeller University to study the mechanism of membrane anchoring of the cell surface protein of the African trypanosome for my PhD. Then as a post-doctoral researcher, to study the endocytic dynamics of membrane components with Dr. Fred Maxfield at Columbia University. Then, after coming back to India and setting up my own laboratory in Bangalore, I pursued this interest and teamed up with Madan Rao to explore the dynamic organization of the cell surface. Together, we have made some very fundamental discoveries concerning how the cell membrane behaves as a active actin membrane composite, and can act to locally regulate the composition of the membrane. In parallel, my laboratory has pioneered studies on endocytic mechanisms that function to regulate membrane tension and potentially membrane composition. My Margadarshi Fellowship is aimed at understanding how the cell membrane composition is regulated at multiple scales to influence the functioning of a number of signalling receptors.