Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Cambridge
Dates: Oct 2004-Sep 2012
Summary: A fundamental question is how animals originate from the first cell, the egg. Embryologists suggested long ago that the asymmetric distribution of substances (determinants) in the egg could confer a specific characteristic to the cells that receive it when the egg divides. This hypothesis has been demonstrated in several organisms, including the model system Drosophila. I am interested in understanding how these determinants are asymmetrically localised and how polarity is originated. To decipher how these asymmetries are established is of critical importance towards the understanding of how an organism – including humans – develop. Why did we choose Drosophila as a model system? It has been proven time and again that the fruit fly is one of the most powerful and elegant systems for studying some of the basic cellular processes that are conserved in the development of humans.
The egg is not the only cell that is polarized: most eukaryotic cells are asymmetric (e.g. neurons), and these asymmetries are essential for their function. One of the most important molecules for cells to achieve polarity is a group of proteins known as motors. Motors are responsible for the transport of most molecules (cargoes) in neuronal and non-neuronal cells. We are using the Drosophila oocyte as a model system to study the nature of the cargoes moved by motor proteins, to identify the proteins that link the motors to these cargoes and to analyse how the activity of the motor is regulated. There is evidence that the defective function of motor proteins results in human diseases, such as Alzheimer, retinitis pigmentosa, and aberrant left-right body axis specification. Elucidating these transport pathways is an area of increasing importance and intense investigation, with possible implications in human diseases. The general contribution of my research to medicine has an obvious positive effect on the economy competitiveness and could lead to the improvement of the quality of life
Scheme: Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship
Dates: Nov 2000-Sep 2004
Summary: This project summary is not available for publication.