One primary focus of the Lowery Lab research is to investigate how cytoskeletal dynamics are regulated to drive cell motility in both normal and pathological conditions.
The Lowery Lab uses this research focus as a platform to further the understanding
of the cell biological defects that underlie neurodevelopmental disorders, various developmental disorders affecting other organ systems, as well as cancer metastasis, using Xenopus laevis as a model system.
We have several ongoing research areas in our lab:
1) Cytoskeletal dynamics and neurodevelopment
Our lab's research initially began with a focus on investigating the regulation of the plus-ends of microtubules, which play a key role in axon guidance. We investigate an important feature of microtubule plus-ends, a set of proteins called 'plus-end tracking proteins' (+TIPs) that localize to the plus-ends and regulate their behavior. This work is funded by an R01 grant from NIH/NIMH. We have also collaborated with the Ballif lab (University of Vermont), the Koleske lab (Yale University), the Flanagan lab (Harvard Medical School), the Prokop lab (University of Manchester). All of this work has focused on the regulation of the cytoskeleton during neural development.
2) Neural crest cells, cell migration, and cancer
As our lab began to focus on microtubule regulation in neurons, we then explored out +TIPs function in other cell types, such as embryonic neural crest cells. We have been investigating how TACC proteins function during cell migration, and how neural crest cell migration might be disrupted in human disorders such as Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome. This work is funded by a grant from the American Cancer Society, and from pilot grants from NIH/NIDCR, the March of Dimes, and the Charles Hood Foundation. More recently, we have begun to turn our attention to microtubule regulation during cancer metastasis, and we have funding from the Ellison Foundation.
3) Using Xenopus as a model for investigating embryonic functions of genes associated with human developmental disorders
In the last few years, we have begun to successfully use Xenopus laevis as a powerful model system for investigating the functions of genes that have been implicated in human disorders, particularly intellectual disability disorders. This work was launched by an exciting collaboration with the Girirajan lab (Penn State University), which is funded by an R01 from NIH/NIGMS. We are now looking forward to using our system to address other human disorders.
4) Additional research projects utilizing our research expertise
We always welcome new collaborations with other cell and developmental biologists
that have projects to which we can contribute.
One of our favorite side projects was a collaboration with the Gubbels lab (Boston College), which studies microtubule regulation in Toxoplasma gandii. We had an engaging time testing toxoplasma microtubule-associated proteins in Xenopus, and vice versa, to discover the conservation of function of these various microtubule proteins in different systems. This work was funded by an R01 (to PI Gubbels) from NIH/NIAID.