Thomas D. Pollard

Yale University

Election Year: 1992
Primary Section: 29, Biophysics and Computational Biology
Secondary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Membership Type: Member

Research Interests

My long-range goal is to establish the molecular basis of actin-based cellular motility. The protein actin forms filaments that contribute, like the frame of a building, to the structure of the cell. In addition, motor molecules, called myosins, use actin filaments as tracks through the cytoplasm. Together the tracks and the motors allow cells to change shape and to move. This capacity for movement is essential for cell division, embryonic development, and defense against microorganisms. Movement of cells out of primary tumors is the chief cause of mortality in cancer. We study the structure of actin-binding proteins, the dynamics of their interactions, and their functions in live cells. We aim to account for how actin filaments initiate in specific locations (such as the leading edge of motile cells) become crosslinked into bundles or networks, rearrange during cellular movements, and turn over on a time scale of minutes. We also study myosin motor proteins with the goal of understanding their structure and functions in cell locomotion and cell division. Research projects range from purely biophysical, such as determination of atomic structures of proteins by x-ray crystallography, to purely biological, such as characterizing yeast mutations that produce defects in cell division.

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