Solving the Mysteries of Metabolism
"Metabolism" describes the chemical processes that occur within a living organism to maintain life. A one-size-fits-all view of the core steps involved in metabolism has been outlined over the past century using experimental data from everything from bacteria to yeast and cows’ hearts. However, the resulting piecemeal view has confused organism-specific steps, and has many missing steps.
Dr. Amy Caudy, Canada Research Chair in Metabolomics for Functional Enzyme Discovery, aims to advance understanding of metabolism by focusing on two major gaps in our knowledge.
Firstly, while we know that many chemical reactions occur as cells break down nutrients, we do not know which enzymes—genes that act as catalysts—make these reactions happen. Secondly, recent technological advances have led to the discovery of hundreds of chemicals in cells. These chemicals are not predicted by, and are absent from, current models of metabolism. What they do is unknown.
Caudy aims to discover the function of these mysterious chemicals, and to use yeast to find the “missing enzymes.” Because the majority of metabolic reactions are shared across all life, organisms like yeast can be used to lay the groundwork for improving understanding about the metabolism of human and other mammalian cells.
Caudy’s research will help lead to the discovery of new metabolic pathways—or series of chemical reactions in cells—that will provide new targets for drugs that block the growth of cancer cells.