I was trained as a cell biologist during my graduate studies in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Vallee at Columbia University. I used modern cell biological tools like microscopy and RNA interference to study how the microtubule (MT) motor protein Dynein, attaches to intracellular cargo like vesicles and kinetochores. My research on dynein function at kinetochores attracted me towards understanding the function of this organelle for my post-doctoral work and I choose Dr. Ted Salmon's lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for carrying out this research. In the Salmon lab, I study how kinetochores attach stably to spindle MTs for faithful segregation of chromosomes during mitosis. Even though Cell Biology has been the predominant tool for the majority of my post-doctoral research, I realize that I need to acquire novel skills in the form of molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics to be successful in my future research endeavors and to be able to continually contribute at the highest level to the mitosis research community. The NIH pathway to independence award will provide me with the necessary infrastructure and support to generate the reagents and develop the tools to be independent and have an impact on the field of mitotic research. During the initial phase of my post-doctoral research tenure in the Salmon lab (in collaboration with Jean Cook lab), I have discovered a novel kinetochore function for the replication licensing protein Cdt1 in kinetochore microtubule (kMT) attachment and I have carried out extensive research using cell biological tools to understand its function in this capacity [Nature Cell Biology 2012, Vol. 14(6)]. This study has revealed that Cdt1 performs its mitotic roles in association with a bona fide kinetochore protein, Hec1, whose function in kMT attachment is well documented. Further, it was demonstrated that the Ndc80 complex recruits Cdt1 to kinetochores through a unique loop domain which was also found to be important for kMT attachments. To understand the role of Cdt1 and the Ndc80 loop in greater detail, I need to employ extensively a novel set of skills involving molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics.
The specific aims for my proposed research are to #1) elucidate how Cdt1 and the Ndc80 complex coordinate to control kMT attachments, and #2) probe if the Ndc80 loop domain and/or Cdt1 is required to recruit other microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) to kinetochores to aid in stable kMT attachments. I will test using biochemical, advanced cell biological and genetic means if Cdt1 directly binds to the loop domain and MTs to serve as a bridge between these two components and further if this interaction is important to recruit other MAPs. As co-mentors, Ted Salmon and Jennifer Deluca will provide expertise and tools for advanced imaging and other biochemical assays required. As a mentor, Jean Cook will provide expertise and guidance with molecular biology, protein expression and purification. As a contributor, Kevin Slep will provide equipment and expertise with protein purification and biochemical assays. As a 2nd contributor, Arshad Desai will provide training and expertise with C. elegans genetics and functional assays.
Cells undergo mitosis to segregate its duplicated chromosomes equally between the two daughter cells. Kinetochores are multi-protein complexes that form on chromosomes during mitosis and serve as attachment sites for spindle microtubules. The kinetochore microtubule interface generates force that is required to align the chromosomes at the metaphase plate and segregate them during anaphase. Erroneous segregation of chromosomes in man can lead to cancer and birth defects resulting from chromosomal instability. The results of this study will provide novel insights into the molecular mechanism of kinetochore microtubule attachments, and may lead to identification of new targets for cancer therapeutics.