Volker Haucke receives the Avanti Award in Lipids from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) for his research on the roll of membrane lipid homoeostasis during cell transport. "Haucke's findings are of central importance for cell physiology and pathophysiology," according to Britta Brügger and Thomas Söllner from the Biochemistry Centre at the University of Heidelberg, who nominated Haucke for the award.
With his laboratory in Berlin-Buch, the biochemist Haucke has made important contributions to the elucidation of lipid functions. A major part of his research has been concentrated on the role of lipids in exocytic and endocytic membrane transport, among other processes in neurotransmission. Haucke's group has characterised specific lipid-binding, endocytic adapters, which recognize membrane proteins of synaptic vesicles during their endocytic recycling at neuronal synapses.
In addition, he elucidated the role of lipid metabolizing enzymes and lipid-binding proteins in the highly regulated, coordinated processes of endocytosis and synaptic vesicle regeneration. His team also researched specific phospholipids, so-called phosphoinositides, and described the cellular function of the phosphoinositide phosphatidylinositol (3,4)-bisphosphate, which plays a major role in clathrin-mediated endocytosis. The group thus succeeded in demonstrating the function of this lipid in a defined cellular process for the first time. "The results were so surprising that lipid researchers throughout the world had to reconsider their previous findings," said Brügger and Söllner.
Haucke's latest work has concentrated on phosphoinositide metabolism during exocytic and endocytic transport. These studies have revealed a conceptual framework for the conversion of membrane identity and revealed the mechanistic cause of inherited human muscle disease.
To sum up, Haucke's studies have presented a new model of intracellular membrane transport, in which phosphoinositides play a key role in the determination of organelle identity. The new findings are particularly relevant, due to their therapeutic potential: “Targeting phosphoinositide-metabolizing enzymes might open new therapeutic avenues for the treatment of diseases such as cancer and others disorders,” said Brügger and Söllner.
Volker Haucke is delighted about the Avanti Award: "I feel truly honoured to receive the Avanti Award in Lipids from the ASBMB; it is also an honour for the members and alumni of my lab. I am very grateful that I am surrounded by such a wonderful group of people, with whom I have and have had the privilege to work."
Volker Haucke will receive his award during the annual meeting of the ASBMB in Chicago on 25 April 2017. The Avanti Award in Lipids is presented in recognition of excellent research contributions in the field of lipid research.
Prof. Dr. Volker Haucke
Leibniz-Institut für Molekulare Pharmakologie (FMP)