Caroline C. Philpott, MD
Photo: Caroline Philpott

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301-435-4018

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Elected 2004
My laboratory focuses on the metabolism of iron. Iron is an essential nutrient for virtually every organism on earth, as iron participates as a cofactor in numerous essential enzymatic reactions involving the transfer of electrons. Unfortunately, iron is also quite toxic and organisms have evolved tightly regulated pathways of iron uptake and utilization that protect them from iron's toxic effects. Disruption of normal iron handling systems is a feature of a number of human diseases, including hereditary anemias and iron overload syndromes, chronic liver diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases, such as Friedreich’s ataxia. Pathogenic microorganisms must overcome the host’s capacity to sequester iron before they can establish infection, and iron uptake systems are important virulence factors for many species of bacteria. The goal of my laboratory is to understand how the systems of iron uptake and utilization work, both in the simple eukaryote Saccharomyces cerevisiae and in higher eukaryotes. These efforts have led to the discovery of new genes involved in intracellular iron metabolism, novel systems of iron uptake, and unexpected interactions with other metabolic pathways. Current areas of interest include the use of budding yeast to clone genes involved in iron homeostasis from Candida albicans and from humans.