Profile photo of Marco Colombini
Contact Info
Office: 301.405.6925
Lab: 301.405.2599
Fax: 301.314.9358
Office Address: 3283 Biology-Psychology Bldg
Marco Colombini
Professor Emeritus

Graduate Program Affiliations

  • Biophysics
  • BISI-Physiological Systems (PSYS)
  • BISI-Molecular & Cellular Biology (MOCB)
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Bioengineering

Research Interests 

I have a long-standing research interest in the molecular basis for the function of membrane channels, including voltage gating and selectivity. I also have considerable interest in the cell physiology of membrane channels, especially those located in the mitochondrial outer membrane. Currently, the focus is to understand how these channels are involved in mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. I believe they are involved in the decision-making process, the release of proteins from mitochondria that activate the execution phase of apoptosis. These channels are: 1) VDAC, a 30kDa channel that controls the flow of metabolites across the outer membrane; 2) ceramide channels, large, protein permeable, channels formed by the self-assembly of a lipid, ceramide. The research is mechanistic in nature and we use a variety of techniques from electrophysiological recordings to electron microscopy.

The main current research focus is ceramide channels.  The ability of lipids normally found in cell membranes to self-assemble into large, stable channels is unprecedented in the literature.  Moreover, their regulation by proteins is also totally novel.  We believe that the proteins affect the channel in much the same way that an allosteric modifier influences the structure of a protein.  Beyond these biophysical considerations, the role of ceramide channels in a critical, decision-making step in the initiation of apoptosis, has tremendous implications for both basic and applied research. 


  • Meller Basic Medical Research Award, 1976
  • College of Chemical and Life Sciences Faculty Award for Excellence in Research, 1995
  • Chair of the Bioenergetics Subgroup of the Biophysical Society 2004-07
  • On the Council of the Biophysical Society, 2008-12
  • Fellow of the AAAS, 2013
  • ​H index is 66


  • B.Sc., Honors in Chemistry and Biochemistry, McGill University, 1970
  • Ph.D., McGill University, 1974, Structure and mode of action of membrane transport systems; molecular basis for voltage control of channel-forming proteins.

All Publications

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Latest Publications via PubMed

Lin SH,Chang KT,Cherian N,Wu B,Phee H,Cho C,Colombini M
Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 11;20(18):. pii: E4501. doi: 10.3390/ijms20184501. Epub 2019 Sep 11
Lin SH,Cherian N,Wu B,Phee H,Cho C,Colombini M
Biochem J. 2019 May 31;476(10):1571. doi: 10.1042/BJ20131441_RE. Epub 2019 May 31
Colombini M
Adv Exp Med Biol. 2019;1159:33-48. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-21162-2_3. Epub
Colombini M
J Bioenerg Biomembr. 2017 Feb;49(1):57-64. doi: 10.1007/s10863-016-9646-z. Epub 2016 Jan 22
Colombini M
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2016 Oct;1863(10):2498-502. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2016.01.019. Epub 2016 Jan 27
Perera MN,Ganesan V,Siskind LJ,Szulc ZM,Bielawska A,Bittman R,Colombini M
Chem Phys Lipids. 2016 Jan;194:110-116. doi: 10.1016/j.chemphyslip.2015.09.007. Epub 2015 Sep 25
Head SA,Shi W,Zhao L,Gorshkov K,Pasunooti K,Chen Y,Deng Z,Li RJ,Shim JS,Tan W,Hartung T,Zhang J,Zhao Y,Colombini M,Liu JO
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Dec 29;112(52):E7276-85. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1512867112. Epub 2015 Dec 10
Chang KT,Anishkin A,Patwardhan GA,Beverly LJ,Siskind LJ,Colombini M
Biochim Biophys Acta. 2015 Oct;1848(10 Pt A):2374-84. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamem.2015.07.013. Epub 2015 Jul 26