The centrosome is a specialized component of animal cells that participates in a variety of essential cellular processes. It does so through its ability to nucleate and organize microtubules, filamentous polymers that play a central role in the movement of cells and cellular constituents. Our lab wants to understand how cells control centrosome number and size, parameters that are critical for proper centrosome function. To address these questions, we use a much-studied worm called C. elegans as a model system.
In order for a cell to properly segregate its genetic material and divide, it needs to assemble a bipolar mitotic spindle, a macromolecular machine composed principally of microtubules. The spindle has two basic functions. It ensures that each of the two daughter cells inherits one full set of genetic information and it specifies the place where the mother cell will divide. Disruption of the mechanisms that regulate centrosome number and size can result in aberrant spindles and the mis-segregation of genetic material, a common property of cancer cells. We wish to understand how these mechanisms normally function and how disease may result when they are disrupted.