Evolutionary Perspectives on Mechanisms of Cellular Organization

Coordinators: Michael P. Brenner, Kerwyn Casey Huang, Mukund Thattai

Scientific Advisors: Wendell Alan Lim, Jennifer A. Lippincott-Schwartz, Michael Lynch

This program aims to give participants a broad overview of the important systems and questions in cell biology and cellular biophysics, with a strong emphasis on evolutionary perspectives. In eukaryotic cells, information, energy, and molecular cargo are transported between cellular compartments and between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. These activities are systematically modulated during the progression of the cell cycle, cell growth and division. Physical processes act at multiple scales to produce this spatial and temporal organization, presenting a rich variety of problems in self-organized dynamics and non-equilibrium physics. In recent years, sophisticated imaging and biophysical experiments have explored in molecular detail essential processes such as vesicle fission and fusion, motor protein and cytoskeletal activity, and nuclear transport. However, it remains unclear how to integrate this patchwork of information across systems and organisms. Evolution provides a powerful framework within which to organize this rapidly growing body of data, paving the way to a unified mechanistic description of cellular organization.

A major goal of the program is to stimulate interactions between theorists, experimental biophysicists, cell biologists, and bioinformaticians, to frame and answer relevant mechanistic and evolutionary questions about cellular organization.

A tentative schedule of topics by week is as follows:

Week beginning Topic
January 5 Introduction
January 11 Evolution of Holes Topics will include: ion channels; perioxisomes; nuclear pores; etc.
January 18 Endomembrane organelles (Golgi, nuclear envelope, ER, endosomes and lysosomes)
January 25 Mitochondria and Chloroplast
February 1 Cellular trafficking
February 8 General ideas
February 15 Spindles
February 22 Cell Shape 
March 1 Wrap up

Questions should be directed to one of the program coordinators.