A Colorado State University biochemist is completing the first year of a $985,000, four-year National Science Foundation grant to study how cells take up materials such as proteins from outside their plasma membranes. The research could lead to better understanding of how nutrients, hormones, cholesterol and some viruses enter cells.
Santiago Di Pietro, assistant professor of biochemistry, said cell surface receptors normally capture and internalize molecules from outside the cell. For example, low density lipoproteins (LDL) that transport cholesterol are cleared from the blood by LDL-receptors present on the cell surface, mainly by liver cells. Receptors that carry mutations fail to work properly, which can result in high cholesterol levels in the blood.