Department of Chemistry
A headshot of Vytas Bankaitis

Vytas Bankaitis
Distinguished Professor
E.L. Wehner-Welch Foundation Chair

Primary Appointment
Molecular and Cellular Medicine

Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine
116 Reynolds Medical Building
College Station, TX 77843-1114

P: 979-436-0758
F: 979-847-9481

Research Activities

My laboratory is interested in the regulatory interfaces between novel lipid-mediated signal transduction pathways and important cellular functions. The focus of our work is the phosphatidylinositol/ phosphatidylcholine transfer proteins (PITPs), a ubiquitous but enigmatic class of proteins. Ongoing projects in the laboratory derive from a multidisciplinary approach that encompasses biochemical characterization of novel members of the metazoan PITP family, and the application of genetic, molecular and biophysical approaches to detailed structural and functional analyses of PITPs. The laboratory breaks down into two groups: a group that studies the mechanism of function of fungal, plant and apicomplexan (Toxoplasma) PITPs, and a group that generates knockout mice and analyzes the function of specific PITP isoforms in the mammal -- particularly as these relate to neural stem cell biology. Our collective evidence indicates that PITPs coordinate key interfaces of lipid-driven metabolic reactions and intracellular signaling pathways in both yeast and mammals. Inappropriate regulation of these interfaces compromises membrane trafficking events, growth factor receptor function, cell growth control, and regulation of key developmental pathways. Because defects in any one of these pathways define recognized mechanisms cancer-potentiating mechanisms, PITPs represent essentially unstudied regulators whose dysfunction is likely to influence the activities of cellular processes required for cellular homeostasis. Of additional interest is our recent finding that one of our PITP-deficient mouse lines potentially provides a unique model for chylomicron retention disease, hypoglycemia, brain inflammatory disease, and autism. Relevant approaches that the laboratory employs include: molecular biology, protein and lipid biochemistry, confocal and electron microscopy, mouse gene knockout technology, and classical and molecular genetics. The lab is also refining new approaches for rapidly and confidently identifying the first small molecule inhibitors directed against target PITPs of interest and other key enzymes of lipid metabolism.

Educational Background

Edinboro University, Edinboro, PA; B.S.; 1978; Biology

Clemson University , Clemson, SC; M.S.; 1980 Microbiology

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC; Ph.D.; 1984; Microbiology

California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA Postdoctoral; 1986; Cell Biology

Awards & Recognition

  • Recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Fellowship - A national award presented to 6 outstanding student-athletes, 1978.
  • Recipient of the President’s Award for the outstanding student research presentation; regional meeting for the Southeastern and South Carolina branches of the American Society for Microbiology, November, 1979.
  • Recipient of a Predoctoral Fellowship of the Humphrey Foundation - awarded to outstanding incoming graduate students at the University of North Carolina, August, 1980.
  • Recipient of a Postdoctoral Fellowship of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation, January, 1984.
  • Designated an Arnold Beckman Scholar, University of Illinois, 1986.
  • Member, Cell Biology Advisory Panel, National Science Foundation, 1988-1992.
  • Member CDF-2 IRG, NIH, 2001-2004.
  • Chairman CDF-2 and MMBP Initial Review Group, NIH, 2004-2006.
  • Member, Faculty of 1000, Membrane Trafficking and Sorting Section
  • Member, Editorial Advisory Board, EMBO Reports, 2012-present.
  • Vice-Chair -- Gordon Research Conferences -- Signal Transduction Within the Nucleus, 2009.
  • Chair -- Gordon Research Conferences -- Signal Transduction Within the Nucleus 2011
  • Member, Program Planning Committee, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Annual Meeting, 2011.
  • Director, Lipid Research Division, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2013

Selected Publications

  • Ghosh, R., de Kampos, M.K.F., Hur, S., Huang, J., Orlowski, A., Yang, Y., Tripathy, A., Nile, A.H., Lee, H.-C., Schäfer, H., Dynowski, M., Rog, T., Lete, M.G., Ahyayauch, H., Alonso, A., Vattulainen, I. Igumenova, T.I., Schaaf, G., and Bankaitis, V.A. 2015. Sec14-nodulin proteins pattern phosphoinositide landmarks for developmental control of membrane morphogenesis. Molecular Biology of the Cell (In Press).
  • Bankaitis, V.A. 2014. Peer review: rigor? Or rigor mortis? EMBO Reports 15: 818-819. PMID: 25006184
  • Lee, A.Y., St Onge RP, Proctor MJ, Wallace IM, Nile AH, Spagnuolo PA, Jitkova Y, Gronda M, Wu Y, Kim MK, Cheung-Ong K, Torres NP, Spear ED, Han MK, Schlecht U, Suresh S, Duby G, Heisler LE, Surendra A, Fung E, Urbanus ML, Gebbia M, Lissina E, Miranda M, Chiang JH, Aparicio AM, Zeghouf M, Davis RW, Cherfils J, Boutry M, Kaiser CA, Cummins CL, Trimble WS, Brown GW, Schimmer AD, Bankaitis VA, Nislow C, Bader GD, Giaever G. 2014. Mapping the cellular response to small molecules using chemogenomic fitness signatures. Science 344: 208-211. PMID: 24723613
  • Ren, J., Lin, C.P.-C., Pathak, M., Temple, B.R.S., Nile, A.H., Mousley, C.J., Duncan, M.C., Eckert, D., Leiker, T.J., Ivanova, P.T., Milne, D.S., Murphy, R.S., Brown, H.A., Verdaasdonk, J., Bloom, K.S., Ortlund, E.A., Neiman, A.M., and Bankaitis, V.A. 2014. A phosphatidylinositol transfer protein integrates phosphoinositide signaling with lipid droplet metabolism to regulate a developmental program of nutrient stress-induced membrane biogenesis. Molecular Biology of the Cell 25: 712-727. PMID: 24403601
  • Nile,A.H., Tripathi, A., Yuan, P., Mousley, C.J., Suresh, S., Wallace, I.M., Shah, S.D., Teiotico-Pohlhaus, D., Temple, B., Nislow, C., Giaever, G., Tropsha, A., Davis, R.W., St. Onge, R.P., and Bankaitis, V.A. 2014. PITPs as targets for selectively interfering with phosphoinositide signaling in cells. Nature Chemical Biology 10: 76-84. PMID: 24292071