Cells are highly efficient machines that operate with great precision to promote their existence, proliferation, and function. Complex cellular processes operate in an error-free manner, largely due to intricate regulatory patterns that precisely organize multi-step processes in time and space. The Das Lab investigates these precise regulatory patterns that enable the cell to attain proper cell shape and divide efficiently. Studies from our lab as well as others have shown that these regulatory patterns involve self-organization of higher-order molecular networks. We explore these molecular networks using the single-celled eukaryotic model system Schizosaccharomyces pombe, or fission yeast. Fission yeast cells have a well-defined shape and growth pattern, and divide by actomyosin-ring-dependent cytokinesis, making it an excellent model system for our investigations. Our research employs a broad interdisciplinary background in cell and molecular biology and genetics, with special expertise in quantitative live-cell imaging. We also collaborate closely with engineers and mathematicians to build predictive models of these regulatory mechanisms. The research in our lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (Molecular and Cellular Biosciences) and National Institutes Health (National Institute of General Medical Sciences). Following are the current projects in the lab.

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  1. Defining the Rules for Cell Polarization.

Cell shape establishment and maintenance is critical to cell function and survival. Eukaryotic cells display a variety of distinct cell shapes, thus enabling distinct cellular functions. Emerging research, including our own, reveals that the fundamental proteins involved in cell shape/polarity establishment and maintenance are broadly conserved. However, the precise regulatory mechanisms that control these proteins differ, resulting in diverse cell shapes. How does the cell establish its shape? How do diverse cell shapes emerge? Our current research investigates the molecular details of self-organization in the control of cell polarity.

  1. Organization of Cytokinetic Events.

The final step in cell division is cytokinesis, during which the cytoplasm divides into two after nuclear division. Cytokinesis involves multiple steps that are spatiotemporally organized for successful cell separation. How does the cell organize multi-step cytokinetic processes to successfully separate cells after division? Our data indicate that spatiotemporal signaling patterns at the division site help to organize different cytokinetic events. Current research in the lab focuses on investigating these signaling patterns and how they organize multi-step cellular processes.