G. Vann Bennett (Primary)

George B. Geller Professor, Departments of Biochemistry (primary appointment), Cell Biology, and Neurobiology; HHMI Investigator
Bennett Lab, Primary Lab
Research Interests: 

Mechanisms for micron-scale organization of vertebrate plasma membranes.

Lab Location
214 Nanaline Duke Building, Box 3892 Durham, NC
Office Location

214A Nanaline H Duke, Durham, NC 27710 Box 3711 Med Ctr, Durham, NC 27710

(919) 684-3538, FAX: 919-684-3910

Functional organization of vertebrate plasma membranes:  Molecules to Physiology

Plasma membrane proteins such as ion transporters, cell adhesion molecules, and signaling receptors all must segregate to specific cellular compartments to perform their physiological roles. Our laboratory has discovered an adaptable mechanism based on ankyrins and their spectrin partners that is responsible for coordinating functionally related membrane-spanning proteins within micron-scale domains in diverse vertebrate plasma membranes including excitable membranes in the nervous system and heart.  Ankyrins recognize cytoplasmic domains of membrane transporters and cell adhesion proteins (15 protein families identified so far) through independently evolved interactions of intrinsically disordered sequences with a highly conserved peptide-binding groove formed by the ANK repeat solenoid.  Ankyrins are coupled to spectrins, which are elongated organelle-sized proteins that form mechanically resilient arrays through crosslinking by specialized actin filaments. In addition, giant vertebrate ankyrins with specialized roles in axons acquired new coding sequences by exon shuffling early in vertebrate evolution.

Future Directions

Our current research focuses on three general areas/questions: 

1. The role of the axon initial segment in neuronal plasticity.

2.  Ankyrin-B metabolic syndrome, which combines impaired insulin secretion with age-dependent adiposity and insulin resistance.

3.  Mechanisms for directed organelle transport.

4.  The role ANK2 (the gene encoding ankyrin-B) in neurodevelopment and how ANK2 mutation leads to autism spectrum disorder.

Education

M.D., Johns Hopkins University 1976

Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University 1975

Publications