Pallanck, Leo

Faculty Profile

First Name: 
Last Name: 
[field_fname-formatted] [field_lname-formatted]
Primary Institution: 
Genome Sciences
Mail/Box #: 

Box 355065

Office Location: 

Foege S443E

Office Phone: 
(206) 616-5997
Alternate Phone: 
(206) 616-5996

Research Summary: 

Neurodegenerative disorders are common and often highly debilitating, but the mechanisms responsible for their pathologies are poorly understood and there are currently no effective preventative therapies. To address these matters, my laboratory uses the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. Flies are terrific for this work because of the many powerful genetic tools that have been developed over the long history of their use as a model organism, and because recent work indicates that neurodegenerative disorders can be successfully modeled using flies. At present, we are pursuing three different projects in the lab.

Mitochondrial quality control: The accumulation of damaged mitochondria is linked to aging and neurodegenerative disease. Our work on the Parkinson’s disease-related factors PINK1 and Parkin helped establish that they play central roles in the selective degradation of damaged mitochondria through a process termed mitophagy. A major focus of our laboratory is now aimed at understanding how PINK1 and Parkin promote mitophagy, and to identify other components of this mitochondrial quality control apparatus.

Analysis of the glucocerebrosidase (GBA) gene: Mutations in the GBA gene are the most common cause of Parkinson’s disease. GBA encodes a lysosomal enzyme required for the breakdown of the sphingolipid glucocylceramide, suggesting that the accumulation of glucocylceramide and related sphingolipids upon mutational inactivation of GBA triggers the onset of Parkinson’s disease. We have created a fly model of GBA deficiency and are using it to explore the mechanisms underlying this frequent cause of Parkinson’s disease.

Traumatic brain injury: Traumatic brain injuries significantly increase the risk for developing neurodegenerative diseases years or even decades after the injury. We have recently created a fly model of traumatic brain injury and are using this model to explore the the mechanisms by which such injuries influence the risk of neurodegeneration.

Short Research Description: 
Neurodegeneration & mitochondrial quality control
Areas of Interest: 
Cell Signaling & Cell/Environment Interactions
Developmental Biology, Stem Cells & Aging
Genetics, Genomics & Evolution
<p> Genetics, Neurodegeneration, Parkinson&#39;s Disease, mitochondria, autophagy, mitophagy, Gaucher, traumatic brain injury, proteomics,&nbsp;</p>

Related content

Student Profile