Research

Lipid Metabolism and Aging

We are interested in the relationship between cellular lipid metabolism and organismal aging. To mechanistically understand this relationship, we utilize the model organism Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly).

Recent studies revealed a connection between the fruit fly gene snazurus (SNZ) and fly lifespan (Suh, PLOS One, 2008). Snazurus, the fly homolog of yeast protein Mdm1, is highly expressed in the fly fat body, the insect hub for lipid metabolism analogous to the mammalian liver adipose tissue.

We are currently focused on understanding the role(s) of SNZ in fly metabolism and lifespan extension.

Images:

top- lifespan assay with wildtype and CRISPR knock-out snz lines

bottom- fluorescent imaging of larval fat body cells

The fly larva are an excellent model system for light microscopy. Larva are nearly transparent, and store their lipids in the fat body – a tissue that forms a natural monolayer of cells (see below). Fat body tissue can be easily reconstituted, stained, and imaged by confocal microscopy. Here, we have stained the fat body with cell surface and nuclear markers, which reveals the fat body's "honeycomb" like cellular organization: