Cytoskeletal motor proteins generate mechanical forces, which drive numerous cellular processes that are essential for life.  Research in our laboratory is focused on elucidating the function of the actin cytoskeleton and its associated myosin motor proteins.  The context for our studies is the ‘brush border’: an array of actin-based protrusions known as microvilli, which extend from the surface of polarized epithelial cells.  In the gut, the brush border serves as the sole site of nutrient absorption and a barrier to micro-organisms that reside in the lumenal space.  Using an approach that combines biophysics, biochemistry, and cell biology, we are currently studying mechanisms that control microvillar dynamics, morphology, and function. We have also begun to dissect the mechanism of microvillar assembly, which was jump started by our recent elucidation of the entire brush border proteome.  A broad long-term goal is to develop our understanding of molecules and pathways that may be perturbed in GI diseases characterized by loss of the brush border (e.g. enteropathogenic E. coli infection, celiac disease, and microvillus inclusion disease).

The Tyska laboratory is affiliated with the Vanderbilt Epithelial Biology Center and the Digestive Diseases Research Center.

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