Our research - which spans basic science, clinical research, and epidemiology - studies the links between nutrition, metabolism and human health. The Theme includes researchers from the University of Adelaide's Centre for Nutrition & Gastrointestinal Disease Research, CSIRO Food & Nutrition and the Hopwood Centre for Neurobiology (formally the Lysosomal Diseases Research Unit), as well as SAHMRI’s Cell Signalling & Gene Regulation Group.
We have particular interests in the mechanisms, consequences and management of obesity and type-2 diabetes (T2D); inflammatory and functional disorders of the gut and diseases caused by defects in lysosomes, the cell’s recycling centre.
Specific areas of investigation include the regulation of appetite, the signalling mechanisms triggered by nutrients, the molecular mechanisms of nutrient detection and signalling by gut hormones, immune function and pain-sensing in the gut, interactions between nutrition, circadian rhythm and metabolic disorders, metabolism in liver, muscle and adipose tissue, the role of lysosomes in neurological diseases and defining optimal strategies for the prevention and management of obesity and T2D.
Cohort studies investigate the association between diet and sleep, cancer, anaemia, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and mortality. A major goal is to develop and validate innovative diets to promote health and wellbeing.
Cell Signalling and Gene Regulation
Prof. Proud’s laboratory studies the signalling pathways by which hormones, growth factors and nutrients regulate the function of mammalian cells, especially protein metabolism. The proper control of these pathways plays an important role in cell growth and proliferation, the storage and utilisation of nutrients, and in neurological processes. Defects in their control contributes to tumorigenesis, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidaemias, cardiovascular disorders and neurodegenerative disease.
A major nutrient-sensitive signalling pathway involves the mammalian target of rapamycin, complex 1, mTORC1. mTORC1 is activated by hormones and amino acids, and regulates multiple steps in protein synthesis including the initiation and elongation stages. We are also currently investigating the role of several protein kinases closely related to the mTORC1 pathway, all of which directly impact the mRNA translation machinery. As direct regulators of key protein synthesis factors, these kinases, which include MNK1, MNK2 and eEF2K, play a central role in cellular metabolism. MNK1 and MNK2 phosphorylate the key translation initiation factor eIF4E.