Heidi Hehnly's Laboratory
The Hehnly Laboratory will focus on the relationship between cytoskeletal dynamics and vesicle transport, employing both traditional microscopy and novel ‘nanoscopic’ approaches. One specific area we focus on is how the microtubule organizing center, (A.K.A. the centrosome) regulates cell functions that include mitotic spindle assembly, cell polarity, vesicle trafficking, and primary cilia formation. To this end, our findings in Current Biology (Hehnly et al., 2012) were the first to identify that the centrosome, specifically a substructure of the centrosome called mother centriole appendages, directly regulates vesicle transport (refer to featured electron micrograph). This study created a unique scientific niche to examine how the centrosome, and its appendage-like substructures, is required for regulating membrane trafficking throughout the cell cycle.
The mother centriole appendages, while being observed by electron microscopy as early as the 1960s (Sorokin, 1962) have been widely overlooked until they were recently discovered to functionally define the “older” centriole of the centriole pair. This has potentially important implications for several broad areas of biology. For instance, major findings in the field established exciting routes of inquiry for which my laboratory will focus: (1) The older centriole remains in the stem cell while the cell with the younger centrosome ultimately differentiates (Yamashita et al., 2007). (2) The mother centriole serves as the template for cilia formation (Gromley et al., 2003), and (3) regulates membrane recycling through Rab11 (Hehnly H et al., 2012).
In short, the Hehnly laboratory currently focuses on uncovering intracellular membrane trafficking and signaling mechanisms associated with the mother centriole that are relevant to polarity formation and ciliogenesis, and hence, developmental disorders such as ciliopathies and cancer progression.