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Johnson Cancer Research Center

Dr. Gregory Finnigan

Department: Biochemistry & Molecular Biophysics
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"Our lab uses the single-celled organism S. cerevisiae (budding yeast) as a model system to study the basic biology of cell division. Many of the molecular components for this process are highly conserved; these signaling pathways and individual proteins are very similar between yeast and humans. We study a family of proteins that has multiple functions within the yeast cell, and the same proteins are also expressed, and function in specialized cell types, in humans (neurons, ciliated cells, sperm cells). These "septin" proteins form molecular filaments that oligomerize together to create sub-cellular compartments within a single cell and are thus part of the cell cytoskeleton. Aside from a structural role, the septins also serve to recruit and bind to many other proteins from a variety of cellular signaling pathways that are critical to cell division. We study one signaling pathway that allows yeast cells to transition from the G2 cell cycle phase to the M phase (mitosis). This "checkpoint" has evolved to ensure that particular cellular events have occurred, but cancerous cells sometimes have these molecular safety mechanisms perturbed. Moreover, recent clinical trials examine a drug inhibitor of one such "cell cycle control" protein that is conserved from yeast to humans for certain cancer types. Our lab is interested in understanding the precise molecular controls of, and the exchange of information between, different cellular systems (such as cell cycle control, cytoskeleton, membrane organization, organelle partitioning, etc.), with a major focus on the septin family of proteins."

"We use a variety of advanced molecular and cellular techniques including gene editing using the recently pioneered CRISPR/Cas9 system, fluorescent imaging, genetic screens, and protein biochemistry."