Eukaryotic cells become polarized in a variety of physiological situations such as during directed migration, differentiation, division, or cell-cell contact formation. We use high resolution confocal fluorescence microscopy combined with biochemistry and molecular biology to elucidate molecular mechanisms by which intra- and extracellular signaling events control cytoskeleton dynamics and regulate cell behavior. We are particularly interested in the function and dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton and an ever-growing group of +TIP proteins that specifically associate with growing microtubule ends.
To analyze the functions of these and other proteins at a subcellular level, we also aim to develop novel technologies to interfere with intracellular protein function at high spatial and temporal resolution. Genetic methods such as RNAi have the disadvantage that the loss of a protein of interest relies on slow downregulation of gene expression and protein turnover. Thus, cells have time to adapt by activating alternative pathways, which often complicates the interpretation of such experiments. To address this challenge, the Wittmann lab has recently received an NIH Eureka Award to develop a genetically encoded light-activated system to inactivate specific proteins of interest with high spatial and temporal control. Together with a team of NIH-funded investigators we have also received ARRA funding to build an optimized spinning disk confocal microscope system with integrated photoactivation capability that will be critical for this and other NIH-sponsored research.
Positions are available for motivated postdocs and graduate students!
Last updated 9/2010