Microtubule dynamics and organization in human health and disease

A major fraction of the eukaryotic cytoskeleton is comprised of microtubules, rod-like polymers assembled from the protein tubulin. The physical and dynamic properties of microtubules make them vital for many fundamental biological processes. As examples, microtubules provide mechanical support to the cell, organize cellular contents, and function as building blocks for the mitotic spindle, the force generating apparatus that powers chromosome movements during cell division. A major objective of the Ohi laboratory is to understand how cells leverage the properties of the microtubule cytoskeleton to accomplish complex cellular processes such as cell division. Our work focuses predominantly on non-canonical kinesin-like motors that use chemical energy to shape the microtubule cytoskeleton in three dimensional space. We strive to use this information to shed light on medicinally relevant problems, and to identify protein factors that are ideal targets for novel anti-cancer agents. Our work is currently funded by grants from the NIH-NIGMS, NIH-NHLBI, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the American Heart Association. We also receive generous support from the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center and Vanderbilt University Medical Center.