Chemical Biology of Cell Division
The Chemical Biology of Cell Division research unit focuses on: 1) elucidating the molecular mechanisms by which kinesin motors and other microtubule-associated proteins contribute to mitotic spindle assembly, and 2) developing small molecule chemical tools that can be used in biomedical research and potentially as anti-cancer chemotherapeutics.
The assembly of a bipolar, microtubule-based machine called the mitotic spindle is essential for chromosome segregation during cell division. Inhibition of this process blocks cell cycle progression and is an effective strategy to treat cancer. Motor proteins in the kinesin superfamily play important roles in orchestrating spindle formation. Their ability to directly regulate microtubule organization and polymerization dynamics places them in a new class of chemotherapeutic targets.
We use a multi-disciplinary approach that combines protein biochemistry, cell biology and high resolution microscopy to study spindle formation in cultured vertebrate cells and in in vitro reconstitution assays. In the figure shown below, we reconstituted spindle assembly in the Xenopus egg extract system.