SLC7 amino acid transporters

Cancer cells have reprogramed their energy metabolism to efficiently support tumor growth and metastasis formation. This includes alterations of amino acid catabolism and upregulation of amino acid transporters that lead to the activation of crucial signalling pathways, e.g. mTOR, linking growth signals to nutrient availability. With regard to pregnancy related disorders, the maintenance of proper amino acid homeostasis in rapidly developing fetal tissues is of critical importance. In analogy to the pathways implicated in tumorigenesis, the placental mTOR activity is thought to act as a key regulator to ensure adequate amino acid supply across the placental-fetal interface.

The project investigates in vitro and in vivo whether a specific amino acid transporter of the SLC7 family can serve as a suitable drug target or drug delivery system for cancer chemotherapeutic strategies. Its implication in supporting pregnancy outcomes such as intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and pre-eclampsia is also studied. In parallel, the project aims at elucidating the working mechanisms of SLC7 family members at the molecular level by functional and structural studies of human SLC7 family members and prokaryotic homologues.