Cell division is one of the most dramatic events in the life of a cell. In the Miller Lab, we study the process of cytokinesis, the final step of cell division, where one cell is separated into two. This process is fundamentally important throughout life: it drives development and helps maintain adult tissues, while cytokinesis failure can promote birth defects and tumor formation. Despite the biological and clinical importance of cytokinesis, many aspects of cytokinesis regulation remain poorly understood.
In the Miller Lab, we are investigating how cytokinesis works in intact epithelial tissues, where the dividing cell gives and receives inputs from its neighboring cells. We know that localized activation of RhoA, a small GTPase that promotes actomyosin contractility, is required both for cytokinesis and for proper cell-cell junctions. We don’t fully understand the signaling pathways that lead to proper localized Rho GTPase activity. Therefore, our lab is focused on characterizing novel mechanisms by which localized Rho GTPase activity is regulated both at the cell division site and at cell-cell junctions. Using live high-resolution confocal microscopy in Xenopus laevis (frog) embryos where potential players in Rho GTPase regulation have been perturbed, we are dissecting the mechanisms that regulate cytokinesis and cell-cell junctions in space and time. Understanding how cells function in the context of their native tissues is a new frontier in cell biology, and our work is contributing to this goal.