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Maitreyi Das

Contact Info

Maitreyi Das
Associate Professor, BCMB

Office: Mossman 415, (865-974-3612)
Lab: Mossman 420B

Lab Website:

Ph.D. Biosciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai, India

Research Statement

Cells are highly efficient machines that operate with great precision to promote their existence, proliferation, and function. Complex cellular processes operate in an error-free manner, largely due to intricate regulatory patterns that precisely organize multi-step processes in time and space. The Das Lab investigates these precise regulatory patterns that enable the cell to attain proper cell shape and divide efficiently. Studies from our lab as well as others have shown that these regulatory patterns involve self-organization of higher-order molecular networks. We explore these molecular networks using mainly the single-celled eukaryotic model system Schizosaccharomyces pombe, or fission yeast. Fission yeast cells have a well-defined shape and growth pattern, and divide by actomyosin-ring-dependent cytokinesis, making it an excellent model system for our investigations. Our research employs a broad interdisciplinary background in cell and molecular biology and genetics, with special expertise in quantitative live-cell imaging. We also collaborate closely with engineers and mathematicians to build predictive models of these regulatory mechanisms. The research in our lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (Molecular and Cellular Biosciences). Following are the current projects in the lab. For more details please visit the Das Lab website.

1. Defining the Rules for Cell Polarization- Cell shape establishment and maintenance is critical to cell function and survival. Eukaryotic cells display a variety of distinct cell shapes, thus enabling distinct cellular functions. Emerging research, including our own, reveals that the fundamental proteins involved in cell shape/polarity establishment and maintenance are broadly conserved. However, the precise regulatory mechanisms that control these proteins differ, resulting in diverse cell shapes. Our current research investigates the molecular details of self-organization in the control of cell polarity in the context of the following questions.

  1. What leads to bipolar growth over unipolar growth?
  2. How does the cell determine the initial site of growth immediately after cell division?
  3. How is cell growth inhibited during cell division?

2. Organization of Cytokinetic Events– The final step in cell division is cytokinesis, during which the cytoplasm divides into two after nuclear division. Cytokinesis involves multiple steps that are spatiotemporally organized for successful cell separation. How does the cell organize multi-step cytokinetic processes to successfully separate cells after division? Our data indicate that spatiotemporal signaling patterns at the division site help to organize different cytokinetic events. Current projects in the lab are focused on the following questions.

  1. How are spatiotemporal signaling patterns established at the division site?
  2. How do signaling patterns organize cytokinetic events?
  3. How does the actomyosin ring act as a landmark to coordinate membrane furrowing and septum ingression?

Selected Publications

(Underlined- undergraduate students; ‡- Graduate students)

Wei B, Hercyk BS, Habiyaremye J, Das M. Spatiotemporal analysis of cytokinetic events in fission yeast. 2016 JoVE, Feb 20;(120).

Nuñez I, Rodriguez Pino M, Wiley DJ, Das M, Chen C, Goshima T, Kume K, Hirata D, Toda T and Verde F. Spatial control of translation repression and polarized growth by conserved NDR kinase Orb6 and RNA-binding protein Sts5. eLife, 2016, Jul 30;5. pii: e14216.

Wei B, Hercyk BS, Mattson N, Mohammadi A, Rich J, DeBruyne E, Clark MM, Das M. Unique Spatiotemporal Activation Pattern of Cdc42 by Gef1 and Scd1 Promotes Different Events during Cytokinesis. Mol Biol Cell. 2016 Mar 3.

Das M, Nuñez I, Rodriguez M, Wiley DJ, Rodriguez J, Sarkeshik A, Yates JR 3rd, Buchwald P, Verde F. Phosphorylation-dependent inhibition of Cdc42 GEF Gef1 by 14-3-3 protein Rad24 spatially regulates Cdc42 GTPase activity and oscillatory dynamics during cell morphogenesis. Mol Biol Cell. 2015 Oct 1;26(19):3520-34.

Das M*, Drake T*, Wiley DJ, Buchwald P, Vavylonis D, Verde F. “Oscillatory Dynamics of Cdc42 GTPase in the Control of Polarized Growth.” Science, 2012; Jul 13;337(6091):239-43. *Co-author. Recommend in Faculty of 1000 Biology and highlighted in Editors’ Choice Cell Biology “Pole to Pole” Sci. Signal. 17 July 2012.

Das M, Wiley D J, Chen X, Shah K and Verde F. “Conserved NDR kinase Orb6 controls polarized cell growth by spatial regulation of the small GTPase Cdc42.” Current Biology, 2009; 19, 1314-19. This article was recommended in Faculty of 1000 Biology.