Noemi Polgar, PhD

Noemi Polgar, PhD

Assistant Professor


Department of Anatomy, Biochemistry and Physiology,
Diabetes Research Center
John A. Burns School of Medicine
University of Hawaii at Manoa


Graduate Faculty

Developmental and Reproductive Biology (DRB)


Phone:    (808) 692-1422 (office), (808) 692-1450 (lab)
Fax:         (808) 692-1951
Address: 651 Ilalo Street BSB 110, Honolulu, HI 96813


Short Biography

Noemi Polgar was born and raised in Hungary. At her alma mater, the University of Szeged the main focus of her education was biotechnology and genetics. As an undergraduate and later graduate student, she had the opportunity to spend a total of over two years in the United States at the University of Hawaii, during which time she worked in the laboratory of Dr. Katalin Csiszar as a research intern. There she studied protein interactions of extracellular matrix enzymes, and their implications for breast cancer. This work later formed the topic of her dissertation as well. Following her graduation at the University of Szeged, Hungary, in 2008 she joined faculty of the Department of Medical Genetics at the University of Pecs, where she was contributing to research focusing on genetic susceptibility factors of common diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, as well as mutation screening for rare heritable diseases, such as type I neurofibromatosis and Rett syndrome.

In January 2012, Dr. Polgar left the University of Pecs to join Dr. Ben Fogelgren’s newly established lab at the University of Hawaii as a postdoctoral fellow. Working in the Fogelgren Lab, her research focused on targeted intracellular trafficking in epithelial tissue homeostasis, and morphogenesis as related to kidney development and disease.

In 2017, Dr. Polgar had the opportunity to start her own research laboratory, as one of the Junior Project Leaders for the University’s Diabetes COBRE (Centers for Biomedical Research Excellence) grant. Her work is focused on glucose uptake and its regulation in type-2 diabetes. As a natural extension of this research, she is also interested in fatty acid uptake and the pathomechanisms of intracellular lipid accumulation leading to insulin resistance. Noemi was promoted to Assistant Professor in April 2018.

Description of Research

Type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is growing public health burden in the U.S., and in Hawaii about 12% of the adult population, ~142,000 people have diabetes.

T2DM is a metabolic disorder characterized by hyperglycemia, relative insulin deficiency and insulin resistance. Insulin resistant cells show defects in insulin-induced exocytosis of the glucose transporter GLUT4, affecting glucose uptake. The exocyst, a highly conserved eight protein trafficking complex was identified in cultured adipocytes as a key regulator of GLUT4 trafficking in response to insulin. However, it is not known if the molecular mechanisms through which the exocyst orchestrates exocytosis of this glucose transporter in adipocytes are conserved in other, insulin-responsive tissues, such as the skeletal muscle. Skeletal muscle cells are responsible for the vast majority of insulin-induced glucose uptake, therefore investigating glucose transporter trafficking in these cells will be key to better understanding the mechanism of glucose homeostasis. Sec10 is a central subunit of the exocyst complex, and its overexpression can lead to overall increased exocyst activity, while its knockdown leads to protein degradation of several of the other subunits.

We have recently generated a new transgenic mouse to analyze exocyst-regulated cellular trafficking in vivo: the first mouse strain with a conditional Sec10 allele. This unique model enables us to investigate the consequences of tissue-specific Sec10 inactivation by facilitating generation of adipose and muscle-specific conditional Sec10 knockout animals. We hypothesize that in vivo modulation of the exocyst complex can independently regulate GLUT4 exocytosis and glucose uptake in insulin-responsive cells and tissues, affecting the diabetic phenotype.


A complete list of Dr. Polgar’s published work can be found below: