Illinois Mark

Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory | U of I

Main Navigation



Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory
208 North Wright Street Urbana, Illinois 61801


Office hours 8:30a - 5:00p


Phone: 217-333-3097
Fax: 217-244-6375


Mary L. Kraft

Mary L. Kraft

Assistant Professor
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
114 Roger Adams Laboratory, MC-MC 712
600 S. Mathews
Urbana, Illinois 61801
Send Email

Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2003

Research Statement:
Our research is directed at establishing the driving forces that produce the steady-state cell membrane organization, and understanding the relationship between membrane organization and disease. We combine traditional chemical engineering principles, cutting-edge imaging technologies, and cell biology to overcome critical barriers to progress in biomedical research. Specifically, we investigate intracellular vesicle transport, phase-separation, and the self-assembly of functional aggregates in phospholipid bilayers and real cell membranes using atomic force microscopy, electron microscopy, and novel imaging mass spectrometry techniques. Our research has direct biomedical applications because cell membranes play integral roles in many medically relevant biological processes, including virus infection, cell adhesion, drug delivery, and inflammation.
Phase-separation in self-assembled phospholipid bilayers

Phospholipid bilayers are two dimensional fluids: the lipids that form the bilayer can diffuse within the plane of the membrane. Large differences in the phase transition temperatures of various membrane components induce separation into coexisting ordered and disordered lipid domains. We investigate phase-separation in self-assembled lipid bilayers that are simple models of the cell membrane. Using atomic force microscopy and a new, high lateral resolution imaging mass spectrometry technology, we can determine the precise lipid composition within nanoscale domains in the lipid bilayer. This information provides insight into the molecular interactions that drive cell membrane organization, and it can be used to design new materials for biomedical applications. Intracellular transport and lipid domains in cell membranes: implications for influenza virus replication Although the proteins and lipids in the cell membrane exhibit some degree of lateral fluidity, lateral organization in the cell membrane is believed to be required for biological function. For example, the lipid composition at the site of influenza virus assembly and budding likely influences the formation of infectious progeny influenza viruses. However there is no consensus on the extent and functional consequences of lipid domain formation in cell membranes. We use a novel imaging mass spectrometry technique to visualize the lipid distribution in real cell membranes with high lateral resolution. With this technology, we are investigating the role of intracellular vesicle traffic in establishing the cell membrane composition at the site of influenza virus particle formation. We are also probing how subtle molecular-level changes in the membrane, such as mutations in viral protein structure or cholesterol abundance, alter the pre-envelope domain composition, and ultimately the outcome of influenza virus particle formation. Our findings can direct the development of more effective anti-influenza therapeutics.
Membrane Glycosylation and Cancer

Glycosylated cell membrane components modulate cell adhesion, migration, and cell-cell recognition. Some abnormal glycan structures have been linked to specific diseases, such as cancer, but the full range of structural changes and the functional roles of these glycans remain undiscovered. We are combining imaging mass spectrometry with multivariate analysis to identify and image the glycan structures in cell membranes. Using this strategy, we can identify abnormal glycan structures that are early biomarkers of cancer. This research can also lead to a better understanding of the functions of abnormal glycans in cancer progression.
Research Interests:
Transport, phase-separation and self-assembly in biological membranes
For more information:
Kraft Group website

Honors, Recognition, and Outstanding Achievements: