Aylin Rodan, M.D. Ph.D.

Principal Investigator

I am a physician-scientist with an interest in hypertension, electrolyte disorders, and the underlying epithelial ion transport mechanisms in the kidney driving these clinical syndromes. I obtained my bachelor’s degree at Yale University and got started in my scientific career studying the role of endoplasmic reticulum chaperones in protein folding. I then enrolled in the Medical Scientist Training Program at UCSF, where I studied the mechanisms of behavioral changes in Drosophila melanogaster in response to alcohol, examining the effects of protein kinase A signaling in different parts of the brain, as well as the role of insulin signaling. I continued at UCSF for internal medicine residency, then moved to Dallas for nephrology fellowship training at UT Southwestern, where I deepened my understanding of renal physiology and clinical nephrology. The next logical step was to use my favorite organism, Drosophila, to study questions of relevance to mammalian renal physiology. Using this system, my lab is now studying ion channels and transporters, and the signaling cascades that regulate them, in the Drosophila renal tubule; this work is ongoing at the University of Utah. Our goal is to understand these transporters, channels and their regulation in greater mechanistic detail, identify new regulatory factors by performing forward genetic screens, and translate these insights into improved understanding of human kidney disorders. We also have projects studying ion transport pathways in osmoregulation, circadian rhythm and stroke. I also see patients with kidney disorders and teach undergraduate, graduate and medical students and housestaff, with an emphasis on renal physiology.

Gayani Nanayakkara Ph.D.

Research Associate

I am a pharmacologist with a keen interest in studying the role of immunity in progression of sterile inflammatory disorders. In the Rodan lab, I am studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms mediated by salt stress that activate an immune response in Drosophila Malpighian tubules and the hind gut. Drosophila melanogaster has been extensively used as a model system to dissect molecular mechanisms that control innate immunity. In one of my projects, I am particularly focusing on a gene named locomotion defect (loco) in flies and testing whether this gene is an important regulator in mediating an immune response in Drosophila under salt stress. Additionally, I am studying the role of loco in regulating the longevity of Drosophila. Before joining the Rodan lab, I received my postdoctoral training in vascular diseases at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Philadelphia. I got my PhD in Pharmacology from Auburn University, Alabama, where I studied how PPAR-g (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor-gamma) agonists exert protective effects against myocardial ischemia reperfusion injury.

Clothilde Penalva, Ph.D.

Post Doctoral Fellow

John Pleinis M.S.

Lab Specialist

I am a biochemist with an interest in kinase cascades and epithelial ion transport mechanisms. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Tennessee Technological University. I furthered my education by obtaining a master’s degree in chemistry at Tennessee Technological University. My scientific career started in graduate school, where I studied the mechanism of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPKs) activity via purified protein in vitro kinase assays. Simultaneously, I was trained in computational methods to help further characterize protein interactions in kinase cascades. After completing my master’s degree, I realized I needed experience with organisms. This lead me to the University of Utah, where I accepted a Lab Specialist position in the InsandOuts Lab, under Dr. Aylin Rodan’s supervision. Currently, I work with Drosophila, and their renal tubules, to study ion channels and transporters, and the signaling cascades that regulate them. I use assays/techniques, such as: renal tubule bathing, western blot, and circadian rhythm, to further understanding of ion channel and transporter mechanisms in several environments, including: various osmolarity, pressure, and protein inhibitors.

Hyuck-Jin Nam Ph.D.

Research Scientist

I am a molecular biologist with interest in studying immunity, metabolism and genetics. My research career has involved understanding the interplay between genetics, immunity and metabolic regulation using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model system.

During my Ph.D. studies, I characterized molecular regulatory mechanisms that occur between hosts and pathogens in Drosophila. I also studied genes involved in the innate immune response, especially prophenol-oxidase activation through the serine protease cascade. Next I moved to the U.S., where I was a Research Associate in the laboratory of Dr. Carl Thummel. We discovered the role of the Drosophila Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor (dHNF4) in regulating lipid metabolism and the inflammatory response. I also contributed to three other Drosophila nuclear receptor projects within the lab. The first of these established a novel role for the E78A nuclear receptor in regulating lipid homeostasis through dietary lipid uptake. I was also involved in determining how DHR39 regulates reproductive secretory gland gene expression and male fertility. Finally, I assisted in characterizing how E93 promotes adult development and suppresses larval responses to ecdysone during Drosophila metamorphosis. During the past year, my research was focused on speciation and genetic segregation distortion using Drosophila pseudoobscura species (Pseudoobscura and Bogotana) in the laboratory of Dr. Nitin Phadnis.  In the Rodan lab, I will be studying the regulation of ion channels and transporters in the Drosophila renal tubule.