The Gentry lab is focused on two main research areas that are linked by glucan phosphatases. First, the lab studies fundamental questions addressing the nature and mechanisms of glycogen metabolism and how mis-regulation of these signaling events leads to the neurodegenerative epilepsy called Lafora disease (LD). This work is funded by an NINDS R01 grant. This project is centered on the regulation, signaling, and dynamics of the glucan phosphatase laforin, which is mutated in LD. Second, the lab studies the role of glucan phosphatases in starch metabolism in plants and algae, and this work is funded by an NSF CAREER award. One goal of this project is to determine how glucan phosphatases could be harnessed in starch-based industrial manufacturing and biofuels. Thus, the Gentry lab’s work uniquely links neurodegeneration with biofuels research.
The Gentry utilizes a multidisciplinary approach that employs methodologies of cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, structural biology, and bioinformatics. The lab employs cell culture systems to generate hypotheses; it tests these hypotheses in vitro using purified proteins; it confirms these results using mouse, plant, and algal models; and it defines molecular mechanisms of the enzymes using structural biology.