As part of the Department of Pharmacology, the Harris Lab is interested in how adipose tissue responds to anabolic (insulin) and catabolic (catecholamines) hormones to regulate whole body metabolic homeostasis. We use genetic models and pharmacological tools to evaluate adipose function in mice. We are currently investigating how adenosine receptors impact the postprandial response in adipose tissue.
To complement to our physiological work on adipose tissue, we also investigate adipocyte function in vitro. We have focused on signaling pathways regulating anabolic and catabolic activity in adipocytes. These pathways are interrogated via biochemical studies on enzymes that regulate lipid synthesis and breakdown, with a particular interest in the glycerolipids diacylglycerol and phosphatidic acid. These enzymes include lipin1-3 (phosphatidic acid phosphatases), and the diacylglycerol kinase family of enzymes.
We frequently have research opportunities in biochemistry and physiology for UVA undergraduates.
Granade et al., Biochem Pharmacol. 2022 Mar;197:114908 The diacylglycerol kinase (DGK) family of lipid enzymes catalyzes the conversion of diacylglycerol (DAG) to phosphatidic acid (PA). There are few small molecule DGKα inhibitors currently available, and the application of existing compounds to clinical settings is hindered by species-dependent variability in potency. In order to resolve these issues, we have screened a library of compounds structurally analogous to the DGKα inhibitor, ritanserin, in an effort to identify more potent and specific alternatives.
Granade et al., Mol Metab. 2022 Jul 7;101543. Objective: Adipose tissue is a critical regulator of energy balance that must rapidly shift its metabolism between fasting and feeding to maintain homeostasis. Adenosine has been characterized as an important regulator of adipocyte metabolism primarily through its actions on A1 adenosine receptors (A1R). We sought to understand the role A1R plays specifically in adipocytes during fasting and feeding to regulate glucose and lipid metabolism.