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Current Projects

Two of the most fundamental processes in biology, cell division and protein translation, have dramatically different outcomes in specialized cells. We are currently investigating how animal germline cells fail to completely divide, and instead produce clusters of cells that communicate with each other through connecting bridges as they develop into gametes. We are also working to determine how and why genes that terminate translation normally in ovarian cells instead support efficient stop codon readthrough specifically in nerve cells of the central nervous system.

Our lab uses a powerful combination of genetics, microscopy, and cell biology approaches in the tractable Drosophila model system to investigate non-canonical mechanisms regulating gamete development and gene expression.

New papers from our lab:

Hudson AM, Loughran G, Szabo NL, Wills N, Atkins JF, Cooley L. Tissue-specific dynamic codon redefinition in Drosophila. PNAS 2020. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2012793118

Gerdes JA, Mannix KM, Hudson A, Cooley L. HtsRC-mediated accumulation of F-actin regulates ring canal size during Drosophila melanogaster oogenesis. Genetics 2020. doi: 10.1534/genetics.120.303629.

Kaufman RS, Price KL, Mannix KM, Ayers K, Hudson A, Cooley L. Ring canals permit extensive cytoplasm sharing among germline cells independent of fusomes in Drosophila testes. Development 2020. doi: 10.1242/dev.190140

How do germ cells avoid completing cytokinesis?

This figure shows still images from movies of cytokinesis during Drosophila sperm development using fluorescent proteins and swept-field microscopy to study previously unknown intermediates of ring canal formation.

Proliferating germline cells in animal ovaries and testes characteristically fail to complete abscission, leading to cell clusters that remain connected by intercellular bridges called ring canals. Incomplete cytokinesis also occurs during normal development in somatic tissues and is characteristic of many pathologies, highlighting the importance of understanding how this noncanonical endpoint to mitosis is controlled. Using live imaging of germline mitosis in the Drosophila testis, we discovered a previously unknown intermediate step in ring canal formation involving a midbody-like structure that remodels into a channel between daughter cells.

How do germ cells avoid completing cytokinesis?

To learn how this maturation step occurs and how the molecular machinery that drives abscission is negatively regulated, we are complementing our live imaging studies with biochemical approaches such as APEX biotinylation to identify midbody components as well as genetics to probe the roles of proteins known to function during cytokinesis in other contexts.

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