Laura Villarroel


Dysregulation of dopamine (DA) homeostasis in the brain is implicated in neurodegenerative diseases, drug addiction, and neuropsychiatric disorders. The neuronal plasma membrane dopamine transporter (DAT) is essential for the maintenance of DA homeostasis in the brain. Membrane proteins are distributed in the plasma membrane; however, this distribution is not random. Membrane proteins are predicted to segregate into distinct plasma membrane microdomains with specific lipid compositions often called “lipid rafts” or “membrane rafts” . These microdomains are defined as small (10−200 nM) dynamic sterol- and sphingolipid-enriched structures. These structures are associated with intracellular protein networks and plasma membrane microdomains that ensure appropriate spatial and temporal regulation of membrane proteins. The long-term goal of my studies is to determine whether such membrane microdomain distribution of DAT influences its actual function.