During every cell generation, chromosomes are duplicated and then segregated to each of the daughter cells. The segregation of chromosomes involves a complex cellular machine called the mitotic spindle. Errors in chromosome segregation occur at a low rate and lead to aneuploidy, a condition in which cells contain either too few or too many chromosomes. Aneuploidy is believed to be one of the primary steps in the formation of cancers. A better understanding of the process of chromosome segregation and the identification of critical components will lead to better treatments for cancer.
The aim of our lab is to identify proteins involved in mitotic spindle function and to study the function of these proteins at the molecular level. We use the yeast, S. cerevisiae, because it is a particularly tractable model system for these studies.
These studies have lead to the identification and characterization of several spindle proteins that bind to microtubule ends and influence their assembly properties. All of these proteins have homologues in human cells, so this work should potentially be applicable to the study of human cancers.