Awards Database

Scialog: Collaborative Teams - 2017

Laura  Lackner

Laura Lackner

Biosciences, Northwestern University

Suckjoon  Jun

Suckjoon Jun

Physics, University of California, San Diego

Principles of organelle copy number homeostasis

Organelles are specialized structures found within eukaryotic cells (human and animal cells). They do much of the processing work of the cell. The mitochondria, for example, convert oxygen and nutrients into the cell’s chemical energy, while another organelle, the endoplasmic reticulum, is involved in making proteins and fats.

“How cells faithfully distribute their organelles into daughter cells is a fundamental problem in biology,” note researchers Laura Lackner, Northwestern University, and Suckjoon Jun, University of California, San Diego.

In an attempt to solve this puzzle, Lackner and Jun formed a collaboration at the most recent Scialog: Molecules Come to Life meeting organized by the private foundation Research Corporation for Science Advancement (RCSA). The $112,500 funding for Lackner and Jun’s research is provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, which is cosponsoring Scialog: Molecules Come to Life.

As the cell undergoes mitosis, the process by which the mother cell divides to produce two new daughter cells that are genetically identical, the organelles are present in multiple copies, but precisely how their distribution is coordinated is not well understood. In addition, organelle shape and content can vary depending on growth conditions surrounding the cell.

“Therefore, an obvious question is how cells maintain copy number homeostasis (equilibrium) of organelles under a given physiological condition,” the researchers note.

In an attempt to answer this question, they will study a simple model organism, budding yeast, for which the tools exist to measure and alter organelle copy number. The team and their associates will apply expertise in genetics, microscopy, microfluidics, and mathematical modeling as they study yeast cell reproduction under various conditions.

“We expect this work to reveal quantitative, predictive principles of organelle homeostasis that will expand to higher eukaryotic cells,” Lackner and Jun said.

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