Baker, Sheila, Ph.D.

Sheila Baker
Assistant Professor
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Differential targeting of membrane proteins in photoreceptors

My laboratory is seeking to understand how the targeting of membrane proteins is controlled in the compartmentalized vertebrate photoreceptor. Proteins are synthesized in the compartment known as the inner segment, and then are selectively transported to various other compartments: the outer segment, the plasma membrane, the synapse, etc. Proteins that get stuck in the inner segment or mis-routed to the wrong compartment can’t function and this adversely affects the ability of the cell to carry out its function of detecting photons and communicating that information to the brain. In fact, perturbations of proper protein trafficking in photoreceptors frequently cause early onset forms of blindness. Unfortunately, the cellular and molecular mechanisms controlling the proper localization of proteins in this cell are very poorly understood, making it difficult to develop therapeutic strategies to prevent this type of blinding disorder. In an effort to shed light on these mysterious processes, we use animal model systems, mice and frogs, along with an array of cell biology and biochemical assays to search for unique ‘address codes’ within various proteins. Once we identify an address code, our goal shifts to understanding how it is deciphered and regulated by the cell.

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