The importance of centrosomes for proper cell and animal function has been appreciated for some time now. Diseases caused by defective centrosomes fall into two general categories, ciliopathies and cell division defects. For example, studies using genetic knockout cell lines show that loss of centrioles in mitotic cells can directly lead to aberrant mitotic spindle formation, defective chromosome segregation, and aneuploidy. Likewise, supernumerary centrosomes is a phenotype found in nearly all cancers, including brain, breast, colon, lung, pancreas and prostate. In fact, studies in Drosophila stem cells show that centrosome over-production can initiate stem cell tumors. Although a similar direct link has not been identified in mammalian cell transformation, increased centrosome number has been shown to cause aneuoploidy and microcephaly.
Our lab aims to understand how centrosomes guide proper tissue patterning by controlling cell polarity and mitotic division axes in order to avoid these detrimental defects. We investigate the mechanisms that regulate centrosome activity in Asymmetric Cell Divisions (ACD) using neural stem cells (figure) as our model, and in Symmetric Cell Divisions (SCD) using Drosophila embryos and spermatogonia as our models.