Thomas J. Baranski, MD, PhD

Thomas J. Baranski, MD, PhD

Professor of Medicine and Developmental Biology, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Lipid Research | Co-Director, WU Transgender Center

Research Interest

Metabolic Regulation and Obesity

Signal Transduction/Hormone Action

Category(ies) of Research


Descriptor of Research

Our laboratory studies signal transduction by G protein-coupled receptors, a superfamily of heptahelical transmembrane proteins. The receptors act as elegantly engineered switches, receiving signals involved in many physiologic processes – blood pressure regulation, glucose homeostasis, sight and smell – to turn on specific signaling cascades within cells. We use engineered yeast to apply the power of genetics to the study of signaling by human G protein-coupled receptors. Insights into how ligands activate receptors will aid in drug design and greatly impact medicine; more than half of currently prescribed pharmaceuticals target G protein-coupled receptors. A new project in the lab involves a model system of glucose toxicity in the simple model organism Drosophila melanogaster. We have performed screens in flies to identify genes that contribute to the effects of a high glucose diet on developing larvae. On high sugar diets, the flies develop phenotypes similar to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus. We are using this model to understand the pathogenesis of diet-induced diabetes.

Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research