2010 S3: Jennifer Phelan

A chemical genetics approach to elucidate mechanisms of the fission yeast polo kinase in cell division

Cancer is a disease of improper and uncontrolled cell division. Understanding how cells divide is an essential tool for developing cancer therapies. Therefore, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, or fission yeast, provides an ideal model for understanding the process of cell division. Cell division is conserved from yeast to mammalian cells. While fission yeast represents a simplified version of mitosis when compared to humans, both cell types set up a contractile ring which constricts to divide the cell during the final phase of division (cytokinesis). The contractile ring is largely composed of actin and myosin but also requires multiple regulatory proteins including a protein kinase, Plo1, and a scaffolding protein, Mid1. Mid1 is essential for anchoring the contractile ring in the cell center. Cells lacking Mid1 fail to divide in the middle and often improperly segregate the genetic material. It is known that Plo1 functions with Mid1 and that this interaction is necessary for proper cell division. Previous research has shown that Plo1 activity increases during cell division but little is understood about its specific impact during cytokinesis. The purpose of this research is to better understand the specific roles of the proteins Plo1 and Mid1 during the final steps of cell division. S. pombe strains with mutant forms of these proteins will be analyzed for visible, phenotypic defects during cell division. By understanding the internal, molecular processes that occur during cell division it is possible to formulate a model for defects observed in diseases such as cancer.

Faculty Mentor: Dawn Clifford Hart, Cell & Molecular Biology

UPDATE

Jennifer presented at the American Society for Cell Biology's 50th Annual Meeting December 11-15, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA.

1