Cellular polarization and the cell cycle
One of our major goals is to uncover the molecular principles that govern the cell cycle and the acquisition of cell polarity, which are intertwined. Chromosome segregation and cell division rely on localization and interaction of proteins at the cell poles. Similarly, the coordination of cell cycle events depends on signal transduction proteins whose polar localization changes during the cell cycle. We investigate the mechanisms underlying these processes. Additionally, we study the genetic circuitry that integrates, in time and space, cell growth, chromosome segregation, and cell division.
Cell morphogenesis and the cytoskeleton
Bacteria possess defined shapes and sizes that are genetically encoded. This is achieved by temporal and spatial regulation of cell growth and division. The cytoskeleton plays a central role in this regulation, primarily by affecting cell wall biogenesis. How this is done is not well understood and is an active area of research in our laboratory. In this context, we are also studying the structure, metabolism and regulation of the peptidoglycan, which is an essential component of the bacterial cell wall and a prime target for antibiotics. Our goal is to understand at the molecular level how homeostasis of cell size and shape can be achieved.
RNA molecules are involved in many critical cellular functions ranging from transcription and translation (mRNA) to regulation (e.g., small, non-coding RNAs). So far, most RNA studies have been biochemical and in vitro, or genetic and on cell populations. We are developing cell biological approaches to study RNA biology at the single cell level. In the process, we recently discovered that some messenger RNAs accumulate near their sites of transcription. The mechanisms and functional relevance of this localization are currently under study