Laura Lackner Assistant Professor of Molecular Biosciences

Research Interests

Spatial organization within cells, using mitochondrial structure and distribution as a model

We are interested in understanding how spatial organization within cells is achieved. As a model for intracellular organization, we study how mitochondria are shaped and positioned within cells. The shape and position of mitochondria depend on the integrated and regulated activities of mitochondrial division, fusion, motility, and tethering. These activities govern the overall connectedness, shape and location of mitochondria within cells and consequently influence both mitochondrial and cellular function. Both the shape and position of mitochondria are highly dynamic and vary by cell type, developmental stage and physiological context. Thus, the activities of mitochondrial division, fusion, motility, and tethering must be coordinated to properly shape and position mitochondria in response to the changing needs of the cell.

Of the activities that contribute to the shape and position of the mitochondrial network, the least is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying the tethering of mitochondria to specific cellular sites. To fill this gap in knowledge, we have focused our efforts on the characterization of mitochondrial tethers required for proper mitochondrial positioning in yeast. Using multidisciplinary biochemical, cytological and genetic approaches that take advantage of the facile yeast system, we are working to elucidate the molecular basis and physiological significance of these mitochondrial tethers and address how their activities are regulated and integrated with other pathways, such as lipid homeostasis and stress responses, to maintain cellular homeostasis. Interestingly, the mitochondrial tethers required for proper mitochondrial positioning in yeast associate with the ER, and we hypothesize that the ER will have a critical and conserved role in mitochondrial tethering in many cell types.

Selected Publications

Mitochondrial-driven assembly of a cortical anchor for mitochondria and dynein. Kraft LM and Lackner LL. Journal of Cell Biology. 2017; in press.

Mitochondrial anchors: Positioning mitochondria and more. Kraft LM and Lackner LL. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2017; epub before print.

Num1 anchors mitochondria to the plasma membrane via two domains with different lipid binding specificities. Ping HA, Kraft LM, Chen W, Nilles AE, and Lackner LL. Journal of Cell Biology. 2016 June 6;213(5):513-524.

Shaping the dynamic mitochondrial networkLackner LL. BMC Biology. 2014 May 27;12:35.

Endoplasmic reticulum-associated mitochondria–cortex tether functions in the distribution and inheritance of mitochondriaLackner LL, Ping H, Graef M, Murley A, and Nunnari J. PNAS. 2013 February 5;110(6):E458-E467.

View all publications by Laura L. Lackner listed in the National Library of Medicine (PubMed).  Current and former IBiS students in blue.