Edmund Kunji

Edmund Kunji

Programme Leader

Understanding transport processes in mitochondria

The outer membrane of mitochondria is permeable for small molecules as it contains large pores, but the inner membrane, which forms cristae, is tightly sealed. A large number of different molecules need to traverse the inner membrane to link the biochemical pathways of the cytosol and mitochondria. Among these compounds are keto acids derived from sugars and fatty acids derived from fat, which are oxidised inside mitochondria to generate the cellular fuel ATP. Amino acids, derived from protein, also enter mitochondria, where they are broken down, interconverted, or used in protein synthesis. Many vitamins are required in the mitochondrial matrix as they act as co-factors for many mitochondrial enzymes. Finally, nucleotides, which are required for replication and transcription of mitochondrial DNA, also need to traverse the inner membrane. More than 60 different transport proteins are present in the mitochondrial inner membrane to facilitate the translocation of these compounds. They belong to different protein families, such as the ABC transporter family, the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier family, and the mitochondrial carrier family. The function of the vast majority of them has not been established. We are interested in studying their role in cellular metabolism and human physiology. We would also like to establish how they work in order to identify the molecular cause for the diseases that are associated with their dysfunction.

Research areas

Group Members

Research support

  • Martin King

Post-docs

  • Daniel Jones
  • Jonathan Ruprecht
  • Tom Schirris
  • Sotiria Tavoulari
  • Chancievan Thangaratnarajah

Post-graduate students

  • Fiona Fitzpatrick
  • Vasiliki Mavridou

Publications

Biography

Education

1984
Grammar school, Jacobus College (now Bonhoeffer College), Enschede, The Netherlands
1984-1990
Undergraduate studies in Physics, Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry at the University of Groningen, The Netherlands
1987-1994
Undergraduate studies Painting, Drawing and Sculpting at the Art Academy Minerva, Groningen, The Netherlands
1990
MSc in Biology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
1991
MSc in Chemistry, University of Groningen, The Netherlands
1997
PhD in Mathematics and Natural Sciences (Cum Laude), University of Groningen, The Netherlands in the laboratory of Wil Konings and Bert Poolman.

Positions

1991
Visiting scholar, Laboratory of Dr Matin, Stanford University, USA.
1996-2000
EMBO Post-doctoral Fellow, Medical Research Council, Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, in the laboratory of Richard Henderson
2000-to date
Programme Leader, Medical Research Council, Mitochondrial Biology Unit Cambridge
2003-to date
Staff Fellow, Director of Studies and Graduate Mentor of Trinity Hall, Cambridge
2011-to date
Director of Cytoprom.

Prizes and awards

2003
EMBO Young Investigator

Gordon Conference

2016, 2018
Elected Vice chair (2016) and Chair (2018) of the Ligand Recognition & Molecular Gating Gordon Research Conference