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Dr. Gerold Schmitt-Ulms studied biochemistry and genetics at the University of Hamburg, Germany, and obtained his PhD at the Max-Planck Institute for Structural Molecular Biology, Hamburg, studying molecular interactions in Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In 1999, he received a prestigious Schering Award to conduct his postdoctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Stanley Prusiner, University of California San Francisco. He joined the Tanz CRND in 2003 and is currently an Associate Professor and member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology at the University of Toronto.
His work contributes to two strands of investigations at the interface of proteomics and neurodegenerative disease research: the development of methods for studying protein interactions and the application of these methods to identify the causes of cellular toxicity in AD and prion diseases. By using quantitative mass spectrometry, his group has generated in-depth inventories of the molecular environments of several key AD proteins, including the amyloid precursor protein (APP), the γ-secretase complexes, the tau protein and the prion protein (PrP). These investigations led to the initial discovery of a direct interaction between the APP and PrP, established a strong influence of leucine-rich repeat and Ig domain containing 1 (LINGO-1) and transmembrane protein 21 (TMP21) on the proteolytic processing of APP, and uncovered proteins that bind selectively to individual presenilin paralogs encoded in the human genome. The PrP-related angle of his research program led to the surprising discovery that around 400 million years ago prion genes descended from an ancient Zrt-, Irt-like protein (ZIP) metal ion transporter gene through a retrotransposition event. This evolutionary relationship has remained relevant today as PrP and a subset of ZIPs appear to have retained an ability to bind to each other, are abnormally endoproteolysed in prion-infected mice and may cooperate in the morphogenetic reprogramming of cells.
Current efforts in his laboratory build on these discoveries and are intended to fill critical gaps in the understanding of AD and prion etiologies with a view to derive novel avenues for their early diagnosis and intervention.
Associate Professor Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology
Our research is enabled through generous research funds provided by the CIHR, NIH and CFI and through awards from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the G. Harold and Leila Y. Mathers Foundation and the Ernst-Schering Research Foundation.
Dr. Schmitt-Ulms is a member of the Graduate Faculty of the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (LM&P), the interdisciplinary University of Toronto Neuroscience Program (UTNP) and the CIHR Strategic Program in Protein Folding at the University of Toronto.