Michigan Postdoctoral Pioneer Program, 2021

Collaborative PIs


Mara Duncan, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Co - Mentor

Pierre Coulombe, Ph.D.

G. Carl Huber Professor
Department Chair, Cell & Developmental Biology
Professor, Department of Dermatology
Research Focus: Epithelia, skin, cell differentiation, tissue homeostasis, tissue repair, genetic diseases, cancer, intermediate filament, keratin, nucleus



Investigating the role of membrane traffic in skin disorders

Membrane traffic is vital to the internal homeostasis of a cell and its ability to integrate with its tissue environment. Recent advances in cell biology and molecular genetics point to a role for membrane traffic in disorders that affect all major organs. With a few exceptions, however, how defective membrane traffic results in tissue-specific diseases is not well understood. The skin offers a unique opportunity to study the role and regulation of this basic cellular processes in a physiologically and clinically meaningful fashion. Chronic skin diseases such as psoriasis affect a large segment of the US population, often are associated with significant co-morbidities, and have a profound impact of an individual’s life and health care costs. The clathrin adaptor protein complex-1 (AP-1) is a central component of membrane traffic at several different organelles. Mutations in genes encoding different AP-1 subunits cause several distinct syndromes, three of which include prominent disorders of the skin. These syndromes provide a unique opportunity to answer fundamental questions about membrane traffic in a clinically meaningful setting. This project will leverage the strengths of two mentors with complementary expertise to elucidate the mechanistic basis underlying skin disorders associated with AP-1 defects.