A system that defines cellular organization and function is the microtubule cytoskeleton, a network of rod-like filaments that form and disassemble on the time scale of minutes. How do MT arrays organize? How are their dynamics regulated to control the physical and functional properties of these MT networks? These questions form the basis of work in the R. Ohi laboratory, which is to understand how MTs are positioned and remodeled in space and time to carry out diverse biological functions.
We focus specifically on microtubule function during cell division. During this process, microtubules form the building blocks of the mitotic spindle, a cellular machine that generates forces that move chromosomes. The spindle also plays a key role during cytokinesis, where it defines the location of the cleavage plane specification and drives abscission. We use quantitative light microscopy to investigate protein functions in the mitotic spindle and biochemistry to understand the mechanisms of action of key spindle proteins. We are also characterizing the roles of tubulin post-translational modifications during cell division. Our long term goal is to leverage our findings to identify new targets for anti-mitotic cancer therapies, and to use high throughput screening to discover chemical inhibitors of these targets.