Jomaa Lab

Localization of Nascent Proteins to Sub-cellular Compartments in Health and Disease

During cancer, the cell up-regulates its protein synthesis machinery to meet the high demand for cell proliferation. Our group aims to understand how cells regulate their ribosome function in response to maintain protein production and upkeep in proteostasis. Each of the newly made proteins will have to be delivered to its final destination where its perform its designated role. To this end, we have a particular interest how these newly-made proteins reach their final destination and how this is perturbed in disease.

We investigate how the localization of newly made proteins is perturbed in cancer progression, which can lead to organelle adaptation in tumor micro-environments.​ 

Our current focus is on adaptation mechanisms of mitochondria and tuning its protein import machinery in colorectal and ovarian cancer. We are also investigating the link between the protein synthesis machinery, organelle adaptation, and dormancy in cancer cells.

Our group uses a combination of integrative research approaches including molecular and structural biology, biochemical, and biophysical techniques with main focus on single particle cryo-electron microscopy.

How cancer cells become dormant?

Cell dormancy is a stress-induced process where cells exit cell division and become quiescent. There are several reasons why cells enter this stage, such as nutrient deprivation and harsh environmental conditions. In response, cells begin “to conserve their batteries” to maintain survival, which includes downregulating the energy-consuming metabolic processes, such as protein biosynthesis. The process is reversible, and cells are able to re-activate once stress conditions are alleviated.

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Cryo-electron microscopy

Our group focuses on using high-resolution structure determination molecular machines in the cell using cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM). We focus on the protein synthesis and protein folding machineries, in particular how they are up or down- regulated at the onset and progression of cancer and neurodegenerative diseases.

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Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

We use integrative approaches including biochemistry and molecular biology techniques to trap then isolate the macromolecular machines and then dissect their function.

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