Cells communicate with each other by secreting signaling molecules and recognizing those from other cells. For example, nerve cells release neurotransmitters contained in small membrane-bounded vesicles at synaptic cell contacts to elicit responses in neighburing cells. We are studying how nerve cells form and assemble synapses and how synaptic vesicles containing messenger substances are recycled to keep synapses up to speed in fractions of a second. If these processes are disrupted, neurological and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease may occur. Not only neurons, but almost all cells in our body release or respond to signaling molecules. Growth factors such as insulin and nutrients promote cell growth and division, while suppressing the degradation of metabolites. In cancer cells, this nutrient signaling pathway is often disturbed. We have deciphered cellular mechanisms that regulate nutrient signaling and thus the balance between cell growth and metabolite degradation. Understanding these mechanisms is essential for a better understanding of diseases such as cancer and diabetes. In addition, we use this knowledge to develop new pharmacological approaches for the treatment of such diseases.
In the Haucke laboratory we aim to understand cellular communication in health and disease at the level of membrane-enclosed compartments that dynamically exchange materials between them. Our main focus is on the analysis of the endocytic and endolysosomal systems in genome-engineered cells and in nerve tissue. The laboratory uses a broad range of techniques including biochemical and molecular biology approaches, super-resolution light and electron microscopy, chemical biology and screening technology, electrophysiology as well as genetic and genome engineering in cell-based models and in vivo.
The overarching goal of our research is to understand the basic principles that enable proteins and lipids to control membrane flux within cells and, thereby, regulate cell and tissue function with a focus on the nervous system. We use this know-how to develop novel strategies for pharmacological or genetic interference that can pave the way to cure diseases including epilepsy, neurodegeneration, lysosomal disorders, myopathies, and cancer.
Volker Haucke studied biochemistry in Berlin and Basel and conducted research at Yale University, the University of Göttingen and the Freie Universität of Berlin. Since 2012, he has been Director at the FMP, Professor of Pharmacology at the Freie Universität of Berlin and a member of the NeuroCure Cluster of Excellence. He is an international leader in molecular cell biology and neuroscience and has been awarded numerous scientific prizes, including the Feldberg Prize 2020.
Research SectionMolecular Physiology & Cell Biology
Marie Curie Actions
German Federal Ministry of Science (BMBF)
Neuronal foundations of active aging - SMART AGE
Helmholtz International Research School in Molecular Neurobiology