The main focus of the lab's research is to understand how the orientation of cell division is controlled. In animal cells, the division furrow typically bisects the mitotic spindle. Thus, the cell division plane is determined by the position of the mitotic spindle. Proper division orientation is essential for a number of developmental and homeostatic processes. These include intrinsically specified asymmetric divisions in which a cell divides to produce daughters with different fates at birth. During such divisions the parent cell is polarized for particular cortical or cytoplasmic components; the spindle must align with this axis for division to result in the differential segregation of such components to the daughter cells, which gives them different developmental fates. The spindle is often also displaced towards one pole in these cells, resulting in daughters of unequal size. During extrinsically asymmetric divisions, although the parent cell is not polarized the spindle/division orientation places daughters in different positions and thus different environments, which results in different fates. Both types of asymmetric division are important for generating cell diversity during development, as well as for the ability of adult stem cells to produce a self-renewing stem cell and a daughter that differentiates; asymmetric division also affects the proliferative capacity of some cell types and defects in spindle positioning have been implicated in cancer. We utilize the model system C. elegans for the majority of our studies, and employ a variety of genetic, molecular and cell biological techniques.
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