Regulation of actomyosin contractility in the C. elegans zygote

Cortical contractility, driven by an actomyosin network underlying the plasma membrane, is responsible for the control of cell shape and the generation of contractile forces that drive polarization and cell division. Contractility depends on myosin activity as well as the organization of filamentous actin, which is determined by the concerted action of a multitude of actin binding proteins.

NMY-2 LifeAct Cytokinesis

We have elucidated the role of plastin, an evolutionary-conserved actin-bundling protein (a.k.a fimbrin), in providing the cortex with the required amount of connectivity to generate long-range contractions and coordinated movement (cortical flows). Such connectivity is essential for cell-scale processes, such as polarisation and cytokinesis. Plastin loss of function mutant (tm4255) shows defects in many contractility-dependent processes, including polarisation and cytokinesis.

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Our work on plastin was published in the Journal of Cell Biology in May 2017. We are currently studying the function of other actin binding proteins in regulating cortical contractility in the early embryo and the role of plastin later in development.