CONICET researcher has made notable contributions in the field of membrane lipid regulation and synthesis, providing valuable insights into cellular signaling and adaptation mechanisms, which are relevant for a better understanding of neurodegenerative diseases.
The European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) has designated Diego de Mendoza, a CONICET researcher at the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Rosario (IBR, CONICET-UNR), as a new member. Membership in this organization, which includes more than 2000 researchers and 91 Nobel laureates, seeks to honor distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions to the life sciences field.
“It is a great honor to have been chosen as a member of EMBO. This recognition not only acknowledges my career but also represents a significant stimulus for our research,” expresses De Mendoza, who is also an Honorary Professor at the University of Rosario (UNR).
About joining EMBO
This year, EMBO has added 69 new members. The organization’s main objective is to support researchers at all stages of their careers, promote the exchange of scientific information, and help build a research environment where scientists can excel.
De Mendoza becomes the sixth Argentinean to join EMBO, joining five other CONICET members: Alfredo Cáceres (INIMEC, CONICET-UNC-IMMF); Alberto Kornblihtt (IFIBYNE, CONICET-UBA); Fernando Pitossi (IIBBA, CONICET-Fundación Instituto Leloir); Fernanda Ceriani (IIBBA, CONICET-Fundación Instituto Leloir); and Gabriel Rabinovich (IBYME, CONICET-F-IBYME).
About his research and contributions to the scientific community
The research group led by De Mendoza has made significant contributions in the field of membrane lipid biosynthesis and regulation. They have discovered mechanisms that allow cells to detect and respond to signals both inside and outside the cell, thereby regulating the synthesis of fatty acids and phospholipids. These signaling mechanisms play a crucial role in the ability of microorganisms to adapt to unfavorable environmental conditions and in coordinating the formation of the cell envelope with other important molecules.
In summary, their research has revealed crucial information about how cells regulate the production of membrane lipids, which has important implications for understanding cellular adaptation and cellular biology in general. This fundamental science work led to the creation of the biotechnology company INMET, of which De Mendoza is a founding partner, specializing in optimizing microorganisms for the biotransformation of agro-industrial waste into high-value-added products.
During 2011-2012, De Mendoza took a sabbatical year at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. During that period, his main goal was to incorporate the multicellular organism Caenorhabditis elegans as a model in his research lines to deepen the understanding of how lipids are involved in various biological processes, from cellular signaling to neurodegenerative diseases.
One of the main projects of his research group focuses on understanding the fundamental principles of how different lipid molecules are involved in the functioning of eukaryotic membranes, as well as in the signaling and metabolism processes of these organisms.
“Recently, our laboratory discovered that lipid signaling molecules, called endocannabinoids, prevent cholesterol retention in C. elegans tissues. This discovery may be important for understanding the molecular mechanisms by which cholesterol accumulates to toxic levels in neurons, a problem that occurs in some neurodegenerative diseases such as Niemann-Pick type C disease or Alzheimer’s,” explains De Mendoza.
Throughout his professional career, he has been awarded numerous prizes. Among the most significant are: Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Investigator (2002-2011); Alexander von Humboldt Award (2010); Houssay Career Award in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2017); Argentine National Researcher (2017); Konex Award (2003 and 2023); Bunge & Born Career Award in Microbiology (2021). He is also a member of the Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences since 2004, a member of the American Academy of Microbiology since 2006, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Argentina since 2017.
De Mendoza was a co-creator of the Multidisciplinary Program of Experimental Biology (PROMUBIE), which later gave rise to the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Rosario (IBR, CONICET-UNR), where he served as its first director.
EMBO Director, Fiona Watt stated, “These extraordinary scientists have unraveled the molecular secrets of life, deepened our understanding of health and disease, and are paving the way for further discoveries and innovations. Their achievements reinforce the critical role that life science research plays in the lives of citizens across Europe and the world.”
New members are nominated and elected by existing EMBO members. EMBO will formally welcome the new members at the Annual Members’ Meeting in Heidelberg, Germany, from October 25th to 27th, 2023.
An online directory listing all EMBO members and associate members, their affiliations, and thematic areas is available here.
By Jimena Zoni