The Wittmann lab aims to elucidate molecular mechanisms by which polarity of intracellular cell biological processes – such as cytoskeleton dynamics or vesicular transport – controls complex behavior and function of mammalian cells.
We are specifically interested in the function and dynamics of the microtubule cytoskeleton and a diverse group of +TIP proteins that associate with growing microtubule ends. A central hypothesis of our research is that many of these +TIPs are microtubule plus end adaptors that promote spatially and temporally controlled capture of growing microtubule ends to polarize microtubule-dependent activities.
While we are driven by curiosity to understand fundamental biological principles, this research is significant in the context of human health as precise control of cell behavior is essential in development and normal tissue function, and – for example – loss of polarity and deregulated migration are hallmarks of aggressive, metastatic cancers.
In addition to molecular biology and biochemistry, we use advanced quantitative fluorescence microscopy, and through collaborations, we are committed to promote the availability of high-end live cell imaging to the wider UCSF community. We are also interested in developing novel optogenetics technologies to interfere with intracellular protein function at high spatial and temporal resolution by using plant-derived light-sensitive protein domains.