The research of the Toivola lab is focused on the roles and regulation of keratin
intermediate filaments in gastrointestinal epithelia such as the intestine, liver and the
Keratins are cytoskeletal structures that provide structural stability to cells and are important in protection from cellular stress. Keratin mutations predispose humans to diseases, including liver disease. Whether inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are linked to keratin mutations in humans is currently unknown, however the keratin (K)8 knockout mouse obtains an early IBD, similar to human ulcerative colitis. Our aims are to understand how keratins help protect simple type epithelia on a molecular level, in particular in gastrointestinal organs with focus on intestine, as well as the endocrine pancreas. Using the K8 heterozygous and knockout mice, mice expressing keratin mutations, experimental models of colitis, colorectal cancer, diabetes, and cell systems, we study the mechanics and roles of keratins in e.g. stress, ion transport, protein and organelle targeting, colonocyte energy metabolism, cancer and diabetes. We also aim to develop imaging of IBD in mice in vivo.
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