Chad G. Pearson, Ph.D.


Microtubules are responsible for diverse cellular functions, ranging from trafficking and force generation to structural platforms for cellular sensation. Variations in microtubule function are achieved because their structure and dynamics can be modulated by different microtubule organizing centers (MTOC) and regulatory events. Integral to microtubule organization is the centriole, the core structure around which vertebrate centrosomes and cilia are assembled. Increasingly appreciated in human disease, defects in centrioles, centrosomes, and cilia contribute to both human cancer and ciliary diseases, or ciliopathies, that exhibit an array of pathologies including polydactyly, situs inversus, kidney cysts, blindness, respiratory illness, and mental retardation. Our lab focuses on the structural and molecular events for centriole biogenesis. Electron microscopy studies performed a half a century ago defined the morphological events leading to a mature centriole. Now with a large inventory of centriole components, we explore how these molecules collaborate to assemble the nine-fold radially symmetric centriole structure. To do so, we use molecular-genetic strategies in the ciliate, Tetrahymena thermophila, combined with quantitative fluorescence and electron microscopy. Our lab is focused on several projects: 1) What are the early assembly stages leading to new centriole assembly? 2) How do centrioles resist mechanical forces? and 3) What are the dynamic localization patterns of proteins within the centriole architecture?

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