The role of microfilaments in the functional organization of yeast and mammalian cells
CALS Impact Statement
Microfilaments are fibrous dynamic structures found in all eukaryotic cells. They make a major contribution to the organization fo cells. We study yeast and animal cells to identify and elucidate proteins involved in this organization.
All cells have the ability to polarize--that is, one end of a cell is biochemically and functionally different from the other. How do cells achieve this organization? Microfilaments are major components of the cytoskeleton and play a key role, and we are currently investigating how they do this.
We have identified proteins that organize the apical aspect of epithelial cells as well as coordinate membrane traffic there. These contribute to the functional organization of epithelial cells. We have also elucidated the mechanism, based on bundles of microfilaments, that yeast uses to polarize its growth and segregate its organelles during the cell cycle.
In many diseases, esepcially cancer, the polarity of cells is affected. To understand what goes wrong in disease, we need to first know how the normal state is organized. Thus this work sets the stage for understanding the molecular basis of some diseases.