The overall objective of this research program is to understand the molecular mechanisms of cell division, especially the final stage cytokinesis, which physically partitions a cell in two. Errors in cytokinesis lead to genomic abnormalities that can induce cancer. We are working both to advance fundamental science, but also to identify potential targets for cancer therapies.
The mechanisms of cytokinesis must be extremely robust to ensure that each of the billions of cell divisions that occur every day of our lives ends successfully. Molecular redundancies within the process ensure fidelity, but make the task of deciphering them more difficult. However, this is an important goal to find new drugs. We use a genetic system where we can inhibit certain proteins at will (or even specific regions of a protein) to then determine the effects on cell division using high-resolution microscopy. We focus on some key proteins, such as Anillin, which can bind to several other important proteins.
Anillin seems to work as a central organizer, but we seek to understand how precisely. Our approach allows us to test the contributions of different proteins on cytokinesis and advance knowledge. The ultimate goal is to understand all the molecular contributions to cell division, which will potentially allow us to specifically target cancer cells that are partially defective in their division.