Cellular architecture and processes depend on molecular interactions that take place in the right place and time. Understanding how molecular interactions and their outputs are spatially arranged and controlled remains one of the last frontiers of cell biology. Advancing our knowledge of spatial biology is important in efforts to regenerate cells and tissues, and treat cancer and neurodegeneration, which arise from defects in cell organization and function.
We are fascinated with how cells develop asymmetric shapes, and how they generate and position specialized compartments. We are particularly interested in how epithelia and neurons develop apical-basal and axon-dendrite compartments, respectively, and how formation of protrusive structures (e.g., filopodia, invadopodia) is spatially controlled during cell morphogenesis and migration.
We are curious about the spatial order and precision of intracellular traffic – how membrane organelles and vesicles transport proteins to their proper destination. How is intracellular transport regulated and spatially guided on the cytoskeleton? How do cytoskeletal polymers - the roadway and railway system of cells – become properly oriented and positioned? What is the traffic code of cells?
We have gained novel insights into these questions by studying a large family of poorly understood proteins termed septins. Part small GTPases and part cytoskeletal polymers, septins provide a spatial code for the positioning of membrane and cytoskeletal proteins. We posit that septins are a central module of spatial organization in cell biology. We use cutting-edge microscopy in fixed and living cells, in vitro reconstitution, protein biochemistry and mechanistic cell biology to advance our knowledge of septin functions in spatial cell biology.
We are a diverse group of individuals, priding on our differences in backgrounds, beliefs, choices and lifestyles. We appreciate the privilege of doing research and pursuing a career in science, as many of us come from disadvantaged beginnings and given an opportunity while other doors were closed. We are bonded by our passion for cell biology, the joy of doing science as a collective and shared experience, and our desire to create and make a difference. We strive to stay honest with ourselves and each other in the quest to learn/unlearn, improve and persevere through challenges and hardships, and achieve our full potential. We celebrate our accomplishments while learning from our failures. We support and root for each other, and enjoy the fun of discovering and learning. Join us!