Microtubules (MTs), 25-nm self-assembling polymers serve as highways for organelles and molecular transport within a cell. During cell division, MTs are arranged into the mitotic spindle and drive chromosome segregation. In interphase cells, MT network organization and modes of MT-dependent transport are much more variable, reflecting functional diversity of cells and tissues. For example, MT functions include secretory trafficking, organelle positioning, and control of site-specific activities (e.g. actin polymerization), thereby defining cell shape and physiology. Paradoxically, our understanding of interphase MT networks is by far less advanced that the understanding of mitotic machinery. Kaverina Lab at Vanderbilt aims to close this gap in knowledge. We study how complex MT networks are arranged, and how specialized MT arrays support distinct cellular tasks.
Our lab is interested in:
- Establishing principles of MT network architecture. An important determinant of MT network organization is location and activity of MT-organizing centers (MTOCs), where MTs are nucleated. We have recently found that the Golgi complex is capable to serve as MTOC, defining MT organization in multiple cell types. Elucidating the molecular and functional properties of Golgi-derived MTs is one of our main goals.
Understanding how variations in MT networks are translated into specifics of cellular architecture and physiology. We are particularly interested in cell types which define major human diseases: we study MT-dependent regulation of (1) insulin secretion from pancreatic beta cells (diabetes), (2) the Golgi in motile and proliferating cells (development and cancer), (3) the actin cytoskeleton in vascular smooth muscle cells (cardiovascular disease).
The astrophysicist Bernard Haisch once said "Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers." This idea is very appealing to us: we want to make discoveries! We base our research on dogma-challenging hypotheses that we test through a unique combination of cutting edge high-resolution microscopy techniques, supported by molecular approaches and merged with physiological assays and mathematical modeling.