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Kristen Verhey

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Primary Appointment: Cell and Developmental Biology
Primary PIBS Dept.: Cell and Developmental Biology
Other PIBS Depts.: Biophysics
PubMed Name: Verhey KJ
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  Our work is aimed at understanding how molecular motors drive intracellular trafficking along microtubule tracks. Current projects in the lab include:

Regulation of kinesin motors.
The activity of motors must be tightly regulated in cells to prevent futile ATP hydrolysis and clogging of microtubule tracks. In many cases, the motors are kept inactive in the absence of cargo due to auto-inhibitory mechanisms. We are investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate kinesin motors using a variety of cell biological and biochemical methods.

Single molecule analysis in vivo and in vitro.
Much work has been done to understand how single motors use ATP hydrolysis to produce force in vitro, however, we understand very little about how motors function in cells. Using a tandem three fluorescent protein tag and total internal reflection fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, we have developed methods to study motors in cells at the single molecule level. This work has shown that whereas Kinesin-1 motors select specific microtubule tracks in cells, the kinesin-2 and kinesin-3 motors are not selective. Selective transport may allow kinesin-1 motors to drive polarized transport.

Kinesin motors and axon/dendrite polarity in neuronal cells. One of the earliest events that distinguish the axon in unpolarized neuronal cells is the selective localization of kinesin-1 and its cargo JIP1 to one neurite. We are currently investigating the molecular mechanisms that lead to this selective transport and thus regulates axon/dendrite polarity.

How microtubule modifications serve as "road signs" to regulate kinesin motor activity.
Work from our lab and others has led to the hypothesis that a "tubulin code" of modifications regulates a variety of microtubule-based events. To investigate this code, we are investigating how various microtubule modifications (acetylation, detyrosination, polyglutamylation) influence a variety of kinesin motors (kinesin-1 vs kineisn-2 vs kinesin-3) in vitro and their membrane transport events in vivo.

Kinesin motors and primary cilia. We are currently investigating how kinesin motors and their cargoes gain access to primary cilia in mammalian cells.