Dr. Lee began studying basic science as a graduate student in the Department of Pharmacology, Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea in 1990. After working as a research fellow at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, TX, USA during 1996-1999, he came back to Yonsei and became a faculty member in the Department of Pharmacology. The main research theme of his group is the study of transmembrane transport of ions and small molecules, including intracellular trafficking of membrane proteins.
Dr. Lee is one of the first persons who identified the molecular mechanisms of unconventional secretion of membrane proteins. Mutations in membrane transporter genes cause human diseases, in many cases due to defects in protein folding and trafficking from the ER to the cell surface. For example, protein folding defects of mutant CFTR and pendrin cause cystic fibrosis and congenital hearing loss, respectively. Recently, his lab discovered that surface expression of mutant CFTR and pendrin can be rescued in vitro and in vivo by directing it to an alternative unconventional protein secretion pathway. This finding provides insight into how an unconventional protein secretion is activated and offers a promising new therapeutic strategy for the treatment of diseases stemming from misfolded proteins.