The human body contains a multitude of specialised tissues and organs that facilitate our physiology and biochemistry. The cells of these organs must form tight barriers with each other in order to differentiate themselves and perform their function. These cellular junctions and attachments are display exquisite mechanical and chemical sensitivity that if perturbed, often leads to disease states within the body.
This project will initially focus on the molecular basis of the disease endometriosis, a neglected disease that is estimated to effect up to 10% of reproductive age women world-wide (https://www.endometriosisaustralia.org/). The pathophysiology of the condition is characterised by cell types that normally line the uterus starting to grow on the organs external surface, which can lead to internal cross-organ attachment, excruciating pain and infertility. Recent Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) have implicated several integral membrane proteins that play a role in cell adhesion. We will pursue their 3-dimensional structures at atomic resolution using cryo-Electron Microscopy (cryo-EM) to better understand their function and contribution to this disease.