Tim P Levine
Tim Levine trained first as a medic then moved into membrane cell biology, and then into intracellular lipid traffic. He showed that inter-organellar contacts are important sites for non-vesicular traffic inside cells. This was part of a revolution in our understanding of intracellular organelles. For over 40 years previously membrane contact sites had been largely ignored or dismissed as artefacts. Tim initially found a lipid transfer protein that localised to a contact site, and showed that it bound to the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein VAP via a motif he named the FFAT motif. FFAT motifs are present in several other lipid transfer proteins leading Tim to propose that FFAT-motif proteins would act at contact sites by binding simultaneously to both the ER and another membrane. By improving the definition of FFAT-like motifs, Tim showed they are present in numerous other proteins, facilitating molecular research of many contact site components. Tim organised the first two conferences on contact sites in 2005 and 2011, linking advances in lipid traffic to those in calcium traffic to bring together these overlapping sub-disciplines.
Tim has also used remote homology tools to identify a new family of lipid transfer proteins anchored at contact sites, and highlighted the power of these tools through specific examples and a ‘How-To’ guide.