The cytoskeleton is a mechano-chemical network that serves as fruitful experimental target to understand the fundamental principles of cellular self-organization and work. Specifically, we study how the microtubule cytoskeleton organizes the interior of living cells. Cells completely remodel their interior structures during cell division and differentiation - both vital processes for organismal development, maturation, and maintenance. The microtubule cytoskeleton has two roles in this process: first the microtubule network itself is a mechanical structure that supports the shape and organization within cells, second microtubules are the tracks used for long-distance intracellular transport by molecular motor proteins that move organelles and protein cargos in the cell. 


Correct microtubule organization is essential to many cellular processes: cell division, neuronal cell development, differentiation, and maintenance, plant cell cellulose deposition, and ciliary beating in the lungs, kidneys, and intestines. Failure to create the correct microtubule network in these processes results in cancer and birth defects, brain abnormalities and neuromuscular diseases, fragile plants, tumors and cell death. We use bottom-up reconstitution techniques and cutting-edge super-resolution single molecule imaging to systematically dissect the underlying physical principles governing microtubule organization to address this large number of essential cellular processes.

November 8, 2015

Microtubules are long, straight cylindrical filaments made from tubulin protein.  

Tubulin proteins are heterodimers of alpha and beta tubulin. Each dimer binds GTP at the "nonexchangable site" (N-site), a pocket between the alpha and beta tubulin subunits. Another...

November 7, 2015

Microtubules are inherently dynamic, growing and shrinking in a process called “dynamic instability.” Microtubule growth (polymerization) occurs when individual tubulin dimers add individually to the ends of microtubules. The two ends of the microtubule are structurall...

November 6, 2015

Microtubules are the most rigid of all filaments composing the cytoskeleton. This rigidity is important to their function of supporting the cellular architecture - especially in long, extended structures such as the cilium or the axon of neurons. There are a variety of...

November 5, 2015

Microtubules form the tracks for motor proteins that are required for intracellular transport in cells. Motors proteins are nanoscale enzymes that literally “walk” along microtubules carrying cellular cargos on their heads to bring molecules, macromolecular complexes,...

November 4, 2015

Microtubule severing enzymes are a novel class of microtubule-associated protein that can sever, or cut, microtubules anywhere along their length. Severing activity is vital for correct cell morphology and development during mitosis, neuronal development and maintenanc...

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