Benjamin  Podbilewicz

Benjamin Podbilewicz

Education/ Resume:

1991 Ph.D. in Cell Biology. Yale University, USA. “Reconstitution of receptor-mediated endocytosis and recycling of transferrin in permeabilized cells”. Doctoral thesis. Yale University. USA. pp. 185. 1991. Ira Mellman’s lab.

1986 B.Sc. in Chemistry, Bacteriology and Parasitology. Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN). Mexico City, Mexico. “Partial reactions of the oxygenic photosynthesis in Spirulina maxima. Use of specific inhibitors of the b/f segment”. Research Thesis. National School for Biological Sciences IPN. Mexico. pp. 122. 1986. Carlos Gomez Lojero’s lab.

Research Summary

Cell fusion is essential for gamete merger and organ formation. We pioneered cell fusion studies in C. elegans and discovered the first developmental cell fusion-mediating protein (fusogen) EFF-1 and showed that it acts bilaterally. We subsequently discovered AFF-1 whose action is restricted to specific fusion events. Moreover, EFF-1 and AFF-1 can replace viral fusion proteins demonstrating they are authentic fusogens. We determined the crystal structure of EFF-1 trimers, revealing high structural similarity to class II viral fusogens. Our lab found that EFF-1 and AFF-1 participate in maintaining the structure and regenerating injured dendritic trees in highly branched neurons. We coined the term “menorah” for a repetitive structural unit in polymodal neurons that sense noxious stimuli and study dendritic arborization in C. elegans. We have studied how dendritic menorahs age and ways to rejuvenate them using fusogens.

More recently we showed that a sperm-egg fusogen from plants (HAP2/GCS1) is sufficient to promote cell fusion when expressed in mammalian cells or in viruses. We then found that although divergent in primary sequence GCS1(HAP2) shows high structural similarity with C. elegans’ fusogens and class II viral fusion proteins (e.g. zika, dengue and Semliki forest viruses), all these fusogens belong in the same structural class defining the FUSEXINS, a family of fusogens essential for exoplasmic merger of plasma membranes and sexual reproduction in eukaryotes. We aim to determine the mechanisms of cell fusion in vivo as well as in simpler in vitro systems. Recently we identified candidate cell fusion proteins (fusexins) in archaea, bacteria and mammals. These discoveries are the basis for studying the functions of fusexins in the origin of eukaryotic cells.

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  • 2020 Margaret Mosenfelder Harris Academic Chair in Science
  • 2020 Career award, Israeli Society for Developmental Biology
  • 2012 Grass Fellow, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, USA.
  • 2012 Bingzhi Forum Professorship, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
  • 2008 The Teva Founders Award, Israel.
  • 2005 The Henry Taub Prize for Excellence in Research, Israel.
  • 2000 ISF Award from the Charles H. Robson Fund for Basic Research, Israel.
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Key Publications
  • Mohler, W.A.*, Shemer, G.* , del Campo, J., Valansi, C., Opoku-Serebuoh, E., Scranton, V., Assaf, N., White, J.G. and Podbilewicz, B.* The type I membrane protein EFF-1 is essential for developmental cell fusion. Dev. Cell. 2:355-362. 2002.
  • Sapir, A., Choi, J., Leikina, E., Avinoam, O., Valansi, C., Chernomordik, L.V., Newman, A.P., and Podbilewicz, B. AFF-1, a FOS-1-Regulated fusogen, mediates fusion of the anchor cell in C. elegans. Dev. Cell. 12:683-698. 2007.
  • Avinoam, O. , Fridman, K. , Valansi, C. , Abutbul, I. , Zeev-Ben-Mordehai, T. , Maurer, U. E., Sapir, A. , Danino, D. , Grunewald, K. , White, J. M. , Podbilewicz, B. Conserved Eukaryotic Fusogens Can Fuse Viral Envelopes to Cells. Science. 332: 589-592. 2011.
  • Perez-Vargas, J., Krey, T., Valansi, C., Avinoam, O., Haouz, A., Jamin, M., Raveh-Barak, H., Podbilewicz, B.* and Rey, F.A.* Structural basis of eukaryotic cell-cell fusion. Cell. 157:407-419. 2014.
  • Oren-Suissa, M., Hall, D., Treinin, M., Shemer, G., and Podbilewicz, B. The Fusogen EFF-1 controls sculpting of mechanosensory dendrites. Science. 328:1285-1288. 2010.
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Recent Publications
  • Valansi, C., Moi D., Leikina E., Matveev E, Graña M., Chernomordik L. V, Romero H., Aguilar P. S.* and Podbilewicz, B.* Arabidopsis HAP2/GCS1 is a gamete fusion protein homologous to somatic and viral fusogens. J Cell Biol. 215:571-581. 2017.
  • Hernandez, J.M. and Podbilewicz, B. The hallmarks of cell-cell fusion. Development. 144:4481-4495. 2017.
  • Oren-Suissa, M., Gattegno, T., Kravtsov, V. and Podbilewicz, B. Extrinsic Repair of Injured Dendrites as a Paradigm for Regeneration by Fusion in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics. 216:571-581. 2017.
  • Kravtsov, V., Oren-Suissa, M. and Podbilewicz, B. The fusogen AFF-1 can rejuvenate the regenerative potential of adult dendritic trees via self-fusion. Development 144:2364-2374. 2017.
  • Segev, N., Avinoam, O. and Podbilewicz, B. Curr Biol 28: R378-R380. 2018.
  • Inberg, S., Meledin, A., Kravtsov, V., Oren-Suissa, M. and Podbilewicz, B. Lessons from Worm Dendritic Patterning. Annu Rev Neurosci. 42:365-383. 2019.
  • Brukman, N.G., Uygur B., Podbilewicz, B.* and Chernomordik L.V.*. How cells fuse. J Cell Biol. 218:1436-1451.
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Open Positions

Applications from suitable MSc, PhD and postdoc candidates are welcome anytime.

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