Marija Zanic, Ph.D.

Marija Zanic, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Assistant Professor of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

4120B Medical Research Building 3
465 21st Avenue South
Nashville 37232-8240
(615) 343-8501
(615) 343-8537 (lab)


We are investigating the dynamics of microtubule cytoskeleton by combining biochemical in vitro reconstitution, single molecule studies, quantitative image analysis and theoretical modeling.  
Lab Website

Research Description

Our lab is fascinated by the dynamic behavior of the microtubule cytoskeleton, and we use a multidisciplinary approach to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of microtubule regulation.

 

Microtubules are highly conserved biological polymers that constitute an integral component of the cytoskeleton. In a healthy cell, microtubule network is highly dynamic and rapidly remodels to realize its essential function in processes such as cell motility and cell division. Reshaping of the microtubule network is achieved through highly regulated switching between growth and shrinkage of individual microtubules, behavior known as microtubule dynamic instability. Even though dynamic instability plays a central role in cellular organization, the underlying molecular mechanisms and their regulation by complexes of microtubule-associated proteins remain poorly understood.

 

We are investigating the microtubule dynamic instability by combining biochemical in vitro reconstitution, single molecule studies, quantitative image analysis and theoretical modeling. We are especially interested in emergent behaviors that arise through collective effects of groups of proteins that regulate microtubule dynamics. By developing predictive models of molecular-level polymer dynamics and testing them in controllable in vitro reconstitution assays, we take a bottom-up approach towards improving our comprehension of complex molecular systems. Combined with structural biology and live-cell studies, this approach provides an essential stepping stone for the understanding of large-scale, dynamic cellular structures. Because microtubules are a common target for chemotherapeutic agents and many of their regulating proteins are implicated in cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, quantitative, predictive models of microtubule regulation not only provide fundamental insight, but also have important medical relevance.