Role of MAPK Signaling in Regulating Cell Polarity and Cell Shape

Aditi Prabhakar

Working at Biological Sciences' confocal microscope facility.

Working at Biological Sciences' confocal microscope facility.

Graduate Student Project


One common theme in all cancers is the deviation from the normal cellular-growth cycle and cell shape. The set of proteins that control the cell cycle and cell shape in human cells are also conserved in baker's yeast.

I am Aditi Prabhakar, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Paul Cullen in the department of Biological Sciences at University at Buffalo. The primary focus of our lab is to understand how cellular environment impacts cell shape and behavior. Our lab uses yeast as a model system which has been useful in unraveling mysteries of cell biology for many years, and a unique tool set is available to study proteins, that are conserved from yeast to humans, to a high degree of sophistication. My work explores fundamental aspects of biology: how does a cell start to grow?

The growth and division of yeast cell is the best understood model in biology. Yet it is unknown if the decision-making proteins that control the growth and cell shape in yeast are influenced by environmental changes. For my PhD dissertation I have investigated how signaling pathways connect information from external environment to the important decisions on cell growth and cell shape.


Cell polarity refers to the asymmetric distribution of cellular contents such as proteins and cytoskeletal features. Cell polarity is important for various biological processes such as maintaining cell shape, cell division and cell differentiation. Misregulation of cell polarity causes various diseases in humans such as cancer where the growth pattern of cells is perturbed. The cell polarity of baker's yeast is the best understood model of polarity establishment and the proteins that regulate cell polarity in yeast are also conserved in humans. Yet it is unknown if yeast cell polarity is influenced by environmental changes. Cells respond to environmental changes through signaling pathways that alter gene expression when activated by a stimulus. Signaling pathways such as MAPK pathways are also conserved from yeast to humans. In this study, we have investigated if the yeast MAPK pathway that responds to nutritional changes in the environment also regulates the intrinsic cell polarity.

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