Carlton lab Organelle Dynamics Laboratory

Human cancer cells

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We are finding out how cells reshape their membranes and cytoskeleton when they divide.

Our cells and many of the structures inside them (known as organelles) are encased in fatty membranes. When cells need to divide, they use molecular ‘machines’ to reorganise and distribute their organelles between daughter cells. One of these molecular machines is called the Endosomal Sorting Complex Required for Transport (ESCRT) and cells use this machinery to complete cell division and ensure that their new daughter cells contain functional organelles.

ESCRT has many roles inside healthy cells, but it is also important when a cell is infected by certain types of viruses, as it helps to package viral particles in fatty membrane coats so they can be released.

We are studying the ESCRT machinery in great detail to find out more about how it works and what can go wrong if it fails to do its job properly. We use high-powered microscopes, biochemical and molecular biological techniques to dissect how ESCRT functions. Our work focuses particularly on the role that ESCRT plays in reshaping the membranes around the cell’s nucleus – the structure where DNA is stored – as one cell divides in two.

Understanding more about how the ESCRT machinery works tells us about some of the most fundamental processes of life at work within our cells, and helps to shed light on what might have gone wrong in a wide range of diseases.