Architecture of a eukaryotic cell largely depends on microtubules (MTs), 25-nm self-assembling polymers that serve as highways for organelle and molecular transport within a cell. During cell division, MTs drive chromosome segregation. In interphase cells, MTs position organelles and site-specific activities like actin assembly or proteolysis, thereby defining cell shape and polarity. For years, an intriguing question has been how MTs within a cell can perform multiple actions that are spatially and temporally distinct. We think that it can only be possible if functionally distinct subsets exist within the MT network and if these subsets are precisely localized within a cell.
Our lab is interested in:
- Establishing principles of diversity and asymmetry within MT networks. We study the MT network as a combination of subsets of diverse origin, dynamics and molecular composition. We have recently discovered a novel MT population, which forms at the Golgi complex and are distinct from the centrosomal MT array. Elucidating the molecular and functional properties of Golgi-derived MTs is one of our main goals.
- Understanding how variations in MT subsets are translated into specifics of cellular architecture and functioning. We aim to resolve general principles of this regulatory system as well as its cell-type-specific functions. In particular, we study MT-dependent regulation of normal and cancer cell motility, the actin cytoskeleton in vascular smooth muscle cells, and insulin secretion in pancreatic beta cells.
The astrophysicist Bernard Haisch once said "Advances are made by answering questions. Discoveries are made by questioning answers." This approach is very appealing to us. Our research is based on a set of dogma-challenging hypotheses that we test through a unique combination of cutting edge high-resolution microscopy techniques supported by molecular and biochemical approaches and merged with mathematical modeling.