Binks Wattenberg, PhD

Lipid Signaling Laboratory

  • B.A., 1975, Cornell University
  • Ph.D., 1981, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Postdoctoral Fellow (Dr. James Rothman), Stanford University


Dr. Wattenberg’s lab works at the nexus between Biochemistry and Cell Biology to understand how the intricate structure and composition of cellular membranes is produced, maintained, and functions. A central problem in cellular biochemistry can be summarized by the question “How does the cell know when enough is enough?” The composition of all cellular structures, including the membraneous organelles, is carefully controlled and disturbances in the balance of components that make up these structures has disastrous effects. Consequently the cell has systems that monitor and adjusts the levels of these components.

Dr. Wattenberg’s lab has had a long-standing interest in a family of lipids known as sphingolipids. These lipids have remarkably potent effects on cell behavior and imbalances in levels of these lipids have been implicated in a wide range of diseases including cancer, inflammation, and asthma. Recently his lab and others have discovered a set of small, membrane-bound proteins, the ORMDLs, that controls the synthesis of sphingolipids in response to cellular levels of these lipids. The central questions are; How do the ORMDLs monitor cellular levels of sphingolipids and How do the ORMDLs regulate synthesis of sphingolipids. Answers to these questions will, we believe, open up novel approaches to treatment of diseases that involve sphingolipid imbalances. We use a variety of cutting edge, as well as classic, approaches to attacking this problem. These include membrane and protein biochemistry, knockout and knock-in technologies, microscopy, radioisotope labeling, and molecular biology. We have recently accomplished reconstitution of the regulation of sphingolipid metabolism of the ORMDLs in the test-tube, a novel technology that we believe will unlock many of the mysteries of this system.

Siow D., Wattenberg, B. Mammalian ORMDL proteins mediate the feedback response in ceramide biosynthesis. J. Biol. Chem 287:40198-204. 2012
Siow D, Sunkara M, Dunn TM, Morris AJ, Wattenberg B. ORMDL/serine palmitoyltransferase stoichiometry determines effects of ORMDL3 expression on sphingolipid biosynthesis. J Lipid Res. 2015 Apr;56(4):898-908.
Siow D, Sunkara M, Morris A, Wattenberg B. Regulation of de novo sphingolipid biosynthesis by the ORMDL proteins and sphingosine kinase-1. Adv Biol Regul. 2015 Jan;57:42-54.

Publications View Dr. Wattenbergs's Publications via the National Library of Medicine's PubMed.

Binks Wattenberg, PhD
Dept. of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
Virginia Commonwealth University
PO Box 980614
MCV Campus
Sanger Hall
1101 E. Marshall Street
Richmond, VA 23298-0614

  •      804-828-1257