Laura Lackner Spatial organization within cells, using mitochondrial structure & distribution as a model

Research Interests

Our research program seeks to address the fundamental biological question of how spatial and dynamic organization within cells is achieved. The positioning of cellular components in the right place at the right time is a highly choreographed, complex process that is critical for cellular function. As a model for intracellular organization, we study the mechanisms that position organelles. While once thought to operate independently, it is clear that organelles contact other organelles, and the positioning of organelles and the contacts they make play critical roles in a wide variety of cellular functions.

The organelle that has been the primary focus of our research is the mitochondrion, which is best known for its role in energy production. Mitochondria also participate in many other biological processes that are important for cellular function such as producing critical cellular building blocks and contributing to cell life and death decision pathways. Mitochondria form highly dynamic, interconnected tubular networks in a majority of cell types. The positioning of this complex network relative to the overall structure of the cell and to other organelles within the cell is critical for both organellar and cellular function. Central to mitochondrial positioning and the interorganelle contacts mitochondria make are molecular tethers. While tethers play critical roles in mitochondrial positioning, interorganelle contact, and, consequently, cellular function in cells from yeast to neurons, the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood, and we are working to address this deficit.

Using a combination of cell biological, genetic, and biochemical approaches, we are addressing fundamental questions about the tethering mechanisms used by cells to position mitochondria as well as form and regulate interorganelle contacts: 1) What are the molecular bases and mechanisms of mitochondrial tethering? 2) How is tethering spatially and temporally regulated? 3) How does tethering impact organelle and cellular function? 4) What are the additional functions of tethers that have yet to be described?

Selected Publications

The multifunctional nature of mitochondrial contact site proteins. Harper CS, White AJ, and Lackner LL. Current Opinion in Cell Biology. 2020 August;65:58-65.

A conserved mechanism for mitochondria-dependent dynein anchoring. Kraft LM and Lackner LL. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2019 March 1;30(5):691-702.

Direct membrane binding and self-interaction contribute to Mmr1 function in mitochondrial inheritance. Chen W, Ping HA, and Lackner LL. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 2018 September 15;29(19):2346-2357.

The role of mitochondria in anchoring dynein to the cell cortex extends beyond clustering the anchor protein. Schmit HL, Kraft LM, Lee-Smith CF, and Lackner LL. Cell Cycle. 2018 July 25;17(11):1345-1357.

Mitochondrial-driven assembly of a cortical anchor for mitochondria and dynein. Kraft LM and Lackner LL. Journal of Cell Biology. 2017 October 2;216(10):3061.

View all publications by Laura L. Lackner listed in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed).  Current and former IBiS students in blue.