Wittmann Lab @ UCSF   

Cells are remarkable!

Every one of us has trillions. (About a quadrillion if you happen to be an elephant).

Cells also never sit still. Cells move. Everything inside a cell moves. All the time.

There are thousands of different types of cells. Like little robots they work together to keep us alive and healthy. While the blueprint for each cell is stored in our genes, what a specific cell type does is determined by its shape and internal structure. For example, nerve cells or neurons – such as the ones on the left – make long extensions that transmit information to other cells. Ultimately, the complexity of the connections of almost 80 billion neurons in the brain makes us think and move.

Cell shape and movements are controlled by the cytoskeleton, proteins that reversibly assemble into filaments, modulate the properties of these filament networks and exert forces. Microtubules are one of the three major cytoskeleton filament systems traversing the inside of all eukaryotic cells – i.e. plants, animals and fungi. Microtubules organize into an always changing network of directional tracks essential for intracellular motions including long-range transport inside cells, determining the front and back of migrating cells, and segregation of the genetic material during cell division.

Current research in the Wittmann lab centers on how proteins that modulate the dynamics and properties of the microtubule cytoskeleton contribute to the generation of complex cell shapes and function, for example during neuron morphogenesis. We are particularly interested in +TIPs, a diverse group of proteins that bind to growing microtubule ends and organize microtubule network orientation and function. We also work on a protein called doublecortin that recognizes different microtubule geometries in developing neurons and is mutated in neurodevelopmental disease.

To address these questions, we use induced pluripotent stem cell systems in combination with modern genome editing, optogenetics and quantitative microscopy of living cells. We are motivated by our belief that understanding fundamental mechanisms of how cells work will allow new approaches to restore cell function when something has gone wrong in disease.

We are always looking for people that share our enthusiasm for cells, the cytoskeleton and microscopy. Prospective postdocs and rotation students should email me with a current CV and what would motivate them to join the lab, and to discuss potential projects. If you are looking to go to graduate school, you first have to apply to one of the UCSF graduate programs. We are part of BMS, Tetrad, and OCS.

Recent Publications

A list of all Wittmann Lab papers can be found here. Email to request reprints.
Nat. Cell Biol. 16, 561

We show that +TIP complexes organize secretory transport toward cell-matrix adhesions.

Curr. Biology 26, 1549

Doublecortin only expressed in developing neurons recognizes straight GDP-microtubules.

Nat. Cell Biol. 20, 252

We construct a photo-sensitive EB1 and test consequences on microtubules and cells.

BioEssays 41, 1800194

Microtubule dynamics review and our thoughts on how cells control microtubule growth.

J. Biol. Chem. 294, 8779

We examine how conserved histidines in MAPT(tau) repeats modulate microtubule binding.

Wittmann Lab Resources

Wittmann Lab Plasmids

If you are looking for a plasmid generated and published by us, please try Addgene first.

Microscope Calendar

This calendar is read-only. Please email for the calendar reservation link.

Micro-Maker Lab

UV micro-patterning system for protein patterning and microfabrication. Please email if interested in using.

Other Useful Stuff

Fluorescent Protein Database
Camera Simulation Engine
Microtubule Plus-End Tracking Software
Nikon Elements Viewer Download

Lab Members

Torsten Wittmann PI  (UCSF Profiles)
Rabab Charafeddine Postdoc  
Alessandro Dema Postdoc
Alumni Now 
Jeffrey van Haren Junior Group Leader @ the Erasmus Medical Center, Netherlands  
Alexandre Matov DataSet Analysis
Andreas Ettinger Microscopy Core Director @ the Helmholtz Center Munich, Germany  
Claudia Bicho now makes the Best Bread in Lisbon, Portugal
Hayley Pemble Senior Manager, Regulatory Affairs @ BioMarin Pharmaceutical Inc.
Thomas van Ravesteyn Graduate Student @ the Netherlands Cancer Institute
Samantha Stehbens Junior Group Leader @ the Institute for Molecular Bioscience, University of Queensland, Australia  
Sarah Gierke Center for Advanced Light Microscopy @ Genentech
Praveen Kumar Scientist @ Gilead  
Oliver Thompson Digital Marketing Analyst @ HMA Digital, UK
Anneke Sanders Postdoc, Kaverina Lab
Karen Lyle  
Wittmann Lab
Department of Cell & Tissue Biology
University of California, San Francisco
513 Parnassus Ave
Box 0512, HSW-615/618
San Francisco, CA 94143
☏  (415) 476 2603 (PI); 476 3037 (Lab)

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