Al Merrill, PhD

Biography

Al Merrill, PhD

Email: al.merrill@biology.gatech.edu

The ability of cells to receive, interpret, and act upon extracellular signals is critical for the proper growth and function of essentially all organisms. This is conducted largely via protein receptors that recognize the initial signals, which are transmitted to intracellular targets via protein-protein interactions, low-molecular weight mediators, and lipids that function both as sites for organization of the signal transduction pathways and as "second messengers". My laboratory studies a category of lipids (termed sphingolipids) that are important in cell structure, cell-cell communication and signal transduction. The major focus of his research is the lipid backbones of sphingolipids (ceramide, sphingosine, sphigosine 1-phosphate and others) that regulate diverse cell behaviors, including growth and programmed cell death (apoptosis). In addition to characterizing the ways that sphingolipids are made, act, and are turned over, our laboratory explores how disease results from disruption of these pathways by (for examples) food borne mycotoxins, environmental contaminants, venoms, and other agents. Studies of naturally occurring and synthetic analogs of these compounds are leading to new strategies for disease prevention and treatment, particularly for certain forms of cancer.

Sphingolipids in cell regulation, with application to immune cells as one of the biological systems where our "sphingolipidomic" technologies have been applied.