Robert Mullen

Email Address
[email protected]
Research Description

My research studies plant cells. More specifically, I look at: the processes that underlie oil production in seeds; the capacity of viruses to infect plant cells and the consequences of such infections; and, the structure and role of proteins that exist embedded in the membrane of plant cells.

Research Summary

My research focuses on three main areas of plant cell biology:
1) Characterization of enzymes involved in seed oil biosynthesis: This research is aimed at understanding various aspects of the molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in producing seed oils and their proper packaging into oil bodies. One of our current goals is to engineer neutral lipid accumulation in vegetative tissues of plants.
2) Understanding various aspects of the biogenesis of peroxisomes, including how membrane proteins are targeted to this organelle, and what role the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) serves in the formation of peroxisomes. We are also especially interested in understanding how certain viruses "hijack" peroxisomes for their replication in infected plant cells.
3) Identification and characterization of a unique class of integral membrane proteins known as "Tail-Anchored" (TA) proteins. Our research is currently aimed at identifying TA proteins using bioinformatic approaches and characterizing these proteins in terms of their localization, targeting signals, and the protein machinery (e.g., receptors) that mediate their membrane insertion and assembly.

Techniques Used

My research takes advantage of a wide range of cellular and molecular technologies, as well as biochemical and microscopic approaches. We also routinely carry out heterologous expression of plant genes in yeast and mammalian cells as a means to provide insights to different aspects of the processes being examined.

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