Michael Forte was a member of Mitocardia from its inception to early 2019 and was a senior scientist at the Vollum Institute and a professor in the Departments of Molecular and Medical Genetics, Cell and Developmental Biology, and Physiology and Pharmacology in the School of Medicine. After being awarded his B.S. from the University of Notre Dame in 1973, Forte earned his Ph.D. in Genetics from the University of Washington in 1978. The Forte lab is investigating the role of mitochondria in the overall regulation of cellular calcium (Ca2+). Ca2+ ions probably represent the most ubiquitous signaling pathway in all cells. Mitochondria are now recognized as initiators and transducers of a range of cell signals, participating in neuronal functions like synaptic plasticity and processes central to activation and amplification of programmed cell death. Moreover, as the main source of cellular ATP, mitochondria must respond to fluctuating energy demands of the cell. As local and global fluctuations in Ca2+ concentration are ubiquitous in eukaryotic cells and are the common factor in a wide array of intra- and inter-cellular signaling cascades, the relationships between mitochondrial function and Ca2+ transients is currently a subject of intense scrutiny. The mitochondrial Ca2+ pool oscillates rapidly in synchrony with cytosolic Ca2+ and thus, mitochondria have the ability to shape cytosolic Ca2+ transients. Mitochondria also respond to Ca2+ uptake by upregulating energy production, thus integrating metabolism with local Ca2+ signaling. The Forte lab is interested in the reciprocal effects of Ca2+ on mitochondria and mitochondria on the Ca2+ signals. Through genetic and drug discovery approaches, the goal is to understand the response of mitochondria to Ca2+, the pathways by which Ca2+ accumulates into mitochondria, and the potential role of mitochondrial Ca2+ particularly in cardiovascular disease processes.
Mike retired after an illustrious career in Academia and Research in early 2019, being replaced by Gyorgy Hajnoczky and his team.