Our laboratory’s research is in a sub-area of cell biology. Specifically, we are interested in how cells change shape or form and how that is precisely regulated using the cytoskeleton. Molecular motors using cytoskeletal tracks are required for such intracellular movements as cytokinesis, endocytosis, exocytosis, axonal transport and organellar movement in general. Although motors are required, many relatively basic questions are unanswered. A critically important cell shape change under investigation is cytokinesis, the division of the cytoplasm during mitosis that is mediated by an actin-myosin based contractile ring in the cleavage furrow. One of the outstanding questions in the study of cell division is how timing and placement of the contractile ring is coupled to mitotic controls. Using micromanipulation, reverse genetics, as well as biochemical approaches in dividing echinoderm eggs, we have sought to determine how the timing of cytokinesis is coupled to the mitotic cycle. These experiments suggest that the timing of cytokinesis is a function of the delivery of a positive cleavage stimulus to the cortical cytoskeleton. At present, we are investigating the nature of the stimulus from the mitotic apparatus astral microtubules and associated plus end binding proteins and the equatorial cell cortex. Further analyses on the signaling machinery associated with the equatorial plasma membrane and how second messengers direct changes in specific effector molecules.
A second line of research deals with the underrepresentation of minority students in the sciences. Specific studies are under way regarding the barriers to participation by American Indians in biomedical research and opportunities for minority scientists in the study of the ethical, legal, and social implications of genomic research.