Francis Tsai Lab

Tsai Lab Project: Mitochondrial Proteostasis


Mitochondria function as the powerhouses of the cell and are essential to cellular and organismal health. Conversely, mitochondrial degeneration and dysfunction are hallmarks of human diseases including developmental and metabolic disorders, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, cancer, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular diseases. Consequently, several surveillance strategies have evolved consisting of molecular chaperones and energy-dependent proteases that protect mitochondria from damage. Mitochondria possess a representative member of every stress-inducible chaperone family; thus, providing a paradigm to elucidate the function of the ensemble of molecular chaperones in proteostasis maintenance.

It is widely appreciated that molecular chaperones provide the first line of defense against protein misfolding by promoting the correct folding and preventing aberrant folding and aggregation. Mitochondrial chaperones are also widely expressed in most tumor cell types, including colorectal, breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer, which have the highest mortality rates, indicating a central role of mitochondrial chaperones in the immortalization of cancer cells and underscoring their significance as promising anti-cancer drug targets. The broad and long-term research objective is to provide a molecular understanding how mitochondrial chaperones maintain proteostasis under physiological conditions and how their function is modulated in pathological states.