Current and Past Research

T Cell Research

T cells are an important part of our immune system and are distinctive because they carry out their function by interacting with other cells in a highly specific and directional manner. They can either secrete cytotoxins and kill other cells or they can secrete special growth factors and help other cells. In order to carry out these functions, T cells form a specialized junction with their target cell called an immunological synapse (IS). They subsequently move the microtubule organizing center (MTOC) close to the synapse and establish a specialized secretory zone. Finally, secretory vesicles accumulate in this zone and fuse with the membrane, allowing their contents to help or kill cells in the immediate area. Read More...

Algae Research

For years, literature has shown that algae contains a significantly large source of oil per mass which could potentially be turned into biofuel. Difficulties in the past, including inefficient and costly extraction methods, have impeded the development of large scale algal derived biofuel. The University of Texas at Austin is working on a multidisciplinary research and development program which studies algal oil extraction for the production of biofuels. The Poenie Lab is a contributing part of this project. We are currently studying different triglyceride extraction methods among several species of algae.

Having developed a rapid and specific quantification method for lipids, the growth and oil content can be monitored over time, through different growing conditions, and extraction techniques can be compared. In addition to continuous work on lipid analysis, new materials with the ability to bind algae and capture oils are being designed and tested so that oil can be separated without solvent extraction. This achievement would dramatically advance the commercialization of biofuels by reducing production costs and making algae byproducts available for agricultural and pharmaceutical use.

Selected Publications

Poenie M, Christian L, Tan S, Sykulev Y. (2012) Role of the MTOC in T cell effector functions. In: Schatten H ed. The Centrosome: Cell and Molecular Mechanisms of Functions and Dysfunctions in Disease. Humana Press (Springer Science+Business Media LLC). In press.

Jones J, Manning S, Montoya M, Keller K, Poenie M. (2012) Extraction of Algal Lipids and Their Analysis by HPLC and Mass Spectrometry. Journal of the American Oil Chemists' Society. Currently published online.

Poenie M. (2010) Hiways and byways to the secretory synapse. Self Nonself 1(1):69-70.

Schmidt C, Kim D, Ippolito GC, Naqvi HR, Probst L, Mathur S, Rosas-Acosta G, Wilson VG, Oldham AL, Poenie M, Webb CF, Tucker PW. (2009) Signalling of the BCR is regulated by a lipid rafts-localised transcription factor, Bright. EMBO J 28(6):711-24.

Combs J, Kim SJ, Tan S, Ligon LA, Holzbaur EL, Kuhn J, Poenie M. (2006) Recruitment of dynein to the Jurkat immunological synapse. PNAS 103(40):14883-8.

Poenie M, Kuhn J, Combs J. (2004) Real Time Visualization of the Cytoskeleton and Effector Functions in T cells. Current Opinion in Immunology 16(4):428-438.

Kuhn JR, Poenie M. (2002) Dynamic polarization of the microtubule cytoskeleton during CTL-mediated killing. Immunity 16:111-121.

Kuhn JR, Wu Z, Poenie M. (2001) Modulated polarization microscopy: a promising new approach to visualizing cytoskeletal dynamics in living cells. Biophys J 80:972-985.

Etter EF, Minta, A., Poenie, M., Fay, F. S. (1996). Near-membrane [Ca2+] transients resolved using the Ca2+ indicator FFP18. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 93, 5368-73.

Vorndran, C., Minta. A., Poenie,M. (1995) New fluorescent calcium indicators designed for cytosolic retention or measuring calcium near membranes. Biophysical J. 69, 2112-2124.