Research laboratories that are part of the Center for Cellular Dynamics

Professor Charles T. Anderson

Anderson Lab

Charlie Anderson's lab studies the synthesis, modification, and degradation of plant cell walls.

The Anderson Lab uses molecular genetics, chemical biology, and live cell imaging to understand how the cell walls of plants are built, modified, and degraded over time. Using techniques to specifically label the different components of cell walls, we measure the changes that these components undergo as the plant cell grows and changes shape. In particular, we study the initial synthesis of the cell wall during cytokinesis; the functional interactions between pectins and cellulose, two important components of the cell wall; and the function of pectin-modifying genes in plant growth and development. These research projects should inform efforts to produce sustainable food, materials, and bioenergy from plants.

Associate Professor Marco Archetti

Archetti Lab

Marco Archetti's lab studies conflict and cooperation among cancer cells.

We study the dynamics of conflict and cooperation for the production of diffusible molecules by cancer cells. Using mathematical models and experiments with genetically engineered cells, we try to unravel the dynamics of growth factor production and how to design evolution-proof cell therapies.

Professor Lu Bai

Bai Lab

Lu Bai's lab studies chromatin and gene regulation at the single-cell and single-molecule level.

The Bai Lab is interested in studying the relation between chromatin and gene expression at single-cell/single-molecule level by using a combination of biophysical, biochemical, genetics and computational methods. The long-term goal of the Bai lab is to identify sequence and chromatin features that affect the level, noise and dynamics of gene expression; to understand how these chromatin features are established and characterize their cell-to-cell variability and dynamics; and finally, to explore their phenotypic effect and evolution.

Professor Emily Bell

Bell lab

Emily Bell's lab aims to understand how cells regulate metabolism to maintain homeostasis while executing the energetically demanding mechanical work involved in cell migration. 

Currently, the Bell Lab is using biochemical and live cell biosensor imaging approaches to study cellular energetics during epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer cell migration. Altering the physical environment of cells through increased confinement can change the energetic demands involved in migration, and result in different activation and requirements for metabolic pathways.

In cancer, the normal regulatory responses that control cell metabolism are often disrupted, so we are also interested in determining whether the migratory behavior of metastatic cancer cells results in increased susceptibility to therapies targeting metabolic pathways.

Professor Andrew Belmonte

Belmonte lab

Andrew Belmonte's group develops mathematical models using game theory and population dynamics to describe cellular signaling pathways, cancer, and for interactions involving competition, cooperation and migration.

Professor Douglas R. Cavener

Cavener lab 

Doug Cavener's lab studies metabolism, endoplasmic reticulum function and diabetes using mouse models.

In the Cavener lab we use mouse models to understand how basic cellular functions result in specific disease phenotypes. For example, we study PERK, an ER resident kinase that regulates differentiation, proliferation and the secretory pathway of insulin beta cells and osteoblasts. When PERK function is reduced, both humans and mice develop neonatal diabetes, growth retardation and severe bone defects. Cellular phenotypes include retention of proinsulin or procollagen in the ER.

Professor Ying Gu

Gu lab

Ying Gu's lab studies cellulose biosynthesis and regulation in model plant Arabidopsis.

Research in my lab is focused on dissecting the molecular mechanism by which plant cells make cellulose. The lab is part of the “Center for Lignocellulose Structure and Formation”, an Energy Frontier Research Center ( led by Penn State and including NC State and VPI. Together with biochemical, genetics, and cutting-edge live cell imaging approaches, we will pursue the following objectives aimed to unravel the mystery of cellulose biosynthesis in plants: 1) Identification and characterization of novel components in CSCs. 2) Investigate interactions between minimal components in CSCs. 3) Advance our understanding in assembly, delivery, and regulation of CSCs. Together, these studies will substantially increase our knowledge of how plant cells make cellulose and provide unprecedented perspective that aids to increase the efficiency of biomass-based energy production.

Professor William Hancock

Hancock lab

Will Hancock's lab studies the biomechanics of kinesin molecular motors.

In the Hancock lab we apply microengineering and nanoscience approaches to cell biology. In particular we focus on the molecular motor kinesin. We can use kinesin motors to generate polarized arrays of microtubules in micro channels, and have also generated artificial mitotic spindles using electric fields and micropatterned motors.

Professor Wendy Hanna-Rose

Hanna-Rose lab

Wendy Hanna-Rose's lab uses C. elegans as a model to study the cell biology of development.

In the Hanna-Rose lab, we are interested in how cells come together to form organs with specific shapes and specialized functions. We use the C. elegans vulva as a model system as its development is well-defined and easy to follow. We use genetics to identify mutants with abnormal vulva morphology, and then try to understand how the mutations affect development. We are currently interested in how vulval and uterine development are coordinated, and how metabolism influences specific developmental events.

Professor Timothy Jegla

Jegla lab

Tim Jegla's lab is interested in how potassium channels modulate neuronal excitability.

Professor Zhi-Chun Lai

Lai lab

In Zhi-Chun Lai's lab we study the control of tissue growth and organ size by the Hippo signaling pathway.

In the Lai lab, we use Drosophila as a model system to understand how cell growth, proliferation and apoptosis are coordinated to control tissue growth and organ size during development. We also study how disruption of growth regulatory mechanisms can lead to diseases such as cancer. Our current research focuses on the Hippo tumor suppression pathway, as it is crucial for growth regulation. In particular we are focusing on the function of Mats, a kinase that is downstream of Hippo.

Professor Aimin Liu

Liu lab

Aimin Liu's lab studies cilia biogenesis and mouse development.

In the Liu lab we study the regulation of cilia biogenesis and the role of cilia in cell-cell communication and cell polarity in mammals. Current questions we are investigating include: What is the role of a novel C2 domain-containing protein we have identified in cilia biogenesis? How do cilia interact with the Hedgehog signaling pathway? What is the role of cilia in the development and function of the inner ear?

Professor Bernhard Lüscher

Lüscher lab

Bernhard Lüscher's lab studies the structure and function of GABAergic inhibitory synapses.

In the Lüscher lab, we use biochemical, immunohistochemical and genetic approaches in cultured neurons and mutant mice to elucidate the structure and function of GABAergic inhibitory synapses. We are also interested in how functional deficits in these synapses contribute to neurological and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, epilepsy, neuropathic pain and drug addiction.

Professor Yingwe Mao

Mao lab

Yingwei Mao's lab studies mechanisms underlying neurogenesis in development and disease.

The ultimate goal of Mao lab is to help develop better therapies and cures for patients with mental illnesses. To achieve this goal, our lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms that lead to abnormal behaviors. In particular, we utilize cross-disciplinary techniques to overcome challenges that others have not been able to address. The research of our lab focuses on the mechanisms that regulate neurogenesis using mouse models and human stem cells. We will determine how abnormal NPC proliferation and differentiation may lead to mental illnesses. Our long-term goal is to use the reagents, experimental systems, and mouse models that we develop to further screen novel drugs that can reverse the behavior phenotype in our mouse model and eventually provide new treatments for patients with psychiatric disorders.

Professor Andrea Mastro

Mastro lab

Andrea Mastro's lab studies the process by which breast cancer cells colonize bone.

In the Mastro lab we study metastatic, osteolytic breast cancer cells that tend to metastasize to the bone marrow. We are interested in the interactions between the breast cancer cells and osteoblasts and use cell culture, 3D bioreactor and in vivo models to investigate the colonization process.

Professor Gabriele Monshausen

Monshausen lab

Research in Gaby Monshausen's lab focuses on how plants receive and respond to external stimuli.

The Monshausen lab uses a variety of live imaging sensors to watch plants as they respond to changes in the environment.

Professor Gustavo Nader

Nader lab

Gustavo Nader's lab studies skeletal and cardiac muscle size control with a focus on the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating ribosome biogenesis.

The Nader Lab is focused on elucidating the mechanisms controlling ribosomal RNA synthesis during skeletal and cardiac muscle hypertrophy. Specifically, we are studying ribosomal DNA gene activation at the transcriptional and epigenetic levels. Our objective is to determine how these mechanisms contribute to the development of muscle hypertrophy, how they are dysregulated during pathological states, and how we can manipulate them for therapeutic purposes.

Professor Richard W. Ordway

Ordway lab

Rick Ordway's lab investigates molecular mechanisms of synaptic transmission.

In the Ordway lab, we use genetic, electrophysiological and imaging approaches to investigate the in vivo molecular mechanisms of synaptic function. One model system in which we can combine these powerful approaches is the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. One way we get at physiological mechanisms operating at mature native synapses is by using temperature-sensitive paralytic mutants to acutely perturb specific gene products.

Professor Melissa Rolls

Rolls lab

In Melissa Rolls' lab we study neuronal polarity and neuronal responses to injury.

In the Rolls lab, we are interested in how neurons generate axons and dendrites with different functions and constituents. To address this problem we focus on the role of cytoskeletal organization and polarized trafficking. Currently, we are working on identifying mechanisms and proteins that control microtubule orientation in neurons. We use genetics and live imaging in Drosophila to assay to investigate the basic cell biology of neurons in their normal environment.

As neurons must last our entire lifetime, we are also interested in understanding how they survive stress and injury. We have been using the tools and ideas developed from our polarity studies to investigate both degeneration and regeneration.

Professor Lorraine Santy

Santy lab

Lorraine Santy's lab investigates small GTPase regulation of epithelial cell migration.

In the Santy lab, we use a cell culture model system to study how small GTPases regulate cell motility. Right now we are focusing on:

  1. ARF6 regulation of cell shape and migration
  2. Subcellular localization of GTPase activation
  3. Crosstalk between small GTPases during migration
  4. ARF6 regulation of adhesion protein trafficking
Professor Claire Thomas

Thomas lab

Claire Thomas' lab studies the cortical spectrin/F-actin cytoskeleton and its role in the control of cell polarity, adhesion and vesicular trafficking.

The Thomas lab uses a multidisciplinary approach in Drosophila to study the role of the cortical spectrin skeleton in morphogenesis, cell shape and protein trafficking. Spectrins are large alpha-helical proteins that can organize membranes into domains. We are focusing on the function of b[Heavy]-spectrin, which plays an important role in epithelial cell polarity.