Junior Research Group Cell Signaling and Metabolism

Dr. Wilhelm Palm

Visualizing endocytic uptake of several macromolecular nutrients in fibroblasts through fluorescent reporters.
© dkfz.de

Nutrients supply the energetic and biosynthetic pathways which underlie all cellular functions. Therefore, to match the metabolic demands of different physiological and pathological states, cells must tightly control nutrient uptake and usage. For instance, quiescent cells import sufficient bioenergetic substrates to sustain homeostasis, but proliferating cells increase nutrient uptake to engage in biosynthesis and duplicate their mass. To survive starvation, cells must access alternative nutrient sources. To grow unrestrainedly, cancer cells must acquire autonomous control over nutrient uptake and endure harsh metabolic tumor microenvironments.
Mammalian cells are surrounded by diverse nutrients, which they access via multiple pathways. To understand how cells acquire nutrients, we characterize their cellular import pathways. Here, we are especially interested in metabolic roles of endocytosis and the lysosome. To understand how cells make choices between distinct nutrient acquisition strategies, we study their regulation by signal transduction. Here, we focus on growth factor signaling and the nutrient-sensing mTOR pathway. Dysregulated nutrient uptake and metabolism has emerged as a hallmark of cancer. Hence, we study how oncogenic mutations in growth factor signaling pathways confer cancer cells metabolic autonomy to support uncontrolled growth and metabolic flexibility to navigate nutrient-poor tumor microenvironments. To this end, we combine imaging, biochemical and genetic approaches and develop tissue culture systems that model diverse metabolic environments.

We are interested in understanding how cells regulate nutrient uptake and metabolism to support cellular function in physiology and cancer development. Studying how oncogenes dysregulate metabolism will substantially contribute to the understanding of cancer biology and identify metabolic vulnerabilities that could be exploited in cancer therapy. At the same time, this research will uncover how the signaling pathways that become dysregulated in cancer control cell metabolism during physiological growth and stress adaptation.


Dr. Wilhelm Palm
Cell Signaling and Metabolism (A330)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 581
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42-1570

Selected Publications

  • Palm W, Araki J, King B, DeMatteo RG, Thompson CB. (2017). Critical role for PI3-kinase in regulating the use of proteins as an amino acid source. PNAS, 114, E8628-E8636
  • Palm W and Thompson CB. (2017). Nutrient Acquisition Strategies of Mammalian Cells. Nature, 546, 234-242
  • Palm W, Park Y, Wright K, Pavlova NN, Tuveson DA, Thompson CB. (2015). The Utilization of Extracellular Proteins as Nutrients Is Suppressed by mTORC1. Cell, 162, 259-70
  • Palm W, Sampaio JL, Brankatschk M, Carvalho M, Mahmoud A, Shevchenko A, Eaton S. (2012). Drosophila Lipoproteins – Assembly, Function, and Influence on Tissue Lipid Composition. PLoS Genetics, 8, e1002828
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