Welcome to the Prehoda lab

We are a research group in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oregon

actin and aPKC

About us

A cell's sense of direction

We study how animal cells polarize, a remarkably dynamic process. The adjacent movie shows a neural stem cell polarizing and depolarizing during division.

  • Polarity dynamics - identifying the steps involved in polarization and depolarization
  • Par complex reconstitution - Biochemical purification and analysis of the central polarity regulator
  • Regulated membrane interactions - Dynamic protein association with the plasma membrane

Find out more below!

Meet the prehoda research group

To enquire about joining the team, contact us

Take a look at the problems we study

Our research is funded by National Institutes of Health grant GM127092

The work we do is focused on understanding the protein interaction networks that regulate stem cell divisions. The Drosophila neuroblast undergoes repeated asymmetric divisions to populate the fly central nervous system and is our primary model system. Following neuroblast division, one daughter cell retains the neuroblast fate while the other goes on to become neurons or glia. The foundation of this amazing process is the segregation of different fate determinant proteins into the two daughter cells during mitosis. Our work attempts to uncover the molecular basis of this stem cell division through the study of cell polarity and mitotic spindle orientation.

The first step in fate determinant segregation is their polarization, in which the proteins localize to opposite regions of the cell membrane. How does the cell become organized in this way? We have studied the Par complex, a set of three proteins that polarizes many different cell types, including neuroblasts. A kinase, atypical Protein Kinase C, is a key component of the Par complex, as attachment of a phosphate to downstream proteins polarizes them. We are trying to understand how cells control where the Par complex is localized, and how substrate phosphorylation leads to their polarization. Loss of polarity is a hallmark of cancer, and we are also studying the relationship between polarity and tumorigenesis.

Fate determinant polarization alone is not enough for the stem cell to function properly. The mitotic spindle must also align along the polarity axis so that the cleavage furrow will bisect the the two membrane domains containing different fate determinants. How is the position of the spindle specified? We are studying proteins that link the cell cortex with microtubule motors that generate forces on the spindle's astral microtubules.

We have also recently begun working on questions in molecular evolution. One of the spindle orienting proteins we've identified is a protein interaction domain that resembles the guanylate kinase (GK) enzyme, which catalyzes the formation of GDP from GMP and ATP. The GK domain version of the protein originated via a duplication of the enzyme sometime near the unicellular to multicellular transition that gave rise to animals (approximately 600 million years ago). How did a nucleotide kinase become a protein interaction domain? We have "resurrected" the ancient ancestors of these proteins so that they can be studied in the lab. This has allowed us to directly answer questions about this amazing functional transition. As the GK domain is a special type of protein interaction domain - a phosphoprotein recognition module - we are now studying how regulation evolved in this system.

Some recent news

  • May 18, 2021 - Our paper on membrane dynamics during asymmetric cell division is published in Cell Reports
  • July 13, 2020 - Rhiannon Penkert returns to the lab as a Research Scientist - welcome back Rhiannon!
  • February 24, 2020 - Kimmy Jones successfully defends her PhD thesis - congratulations Kimmy!
  • February 21, 2020 - Ryan Holly successfully defends his PhD thesis - congratulations Ryan!
  • February 20, 2020 - Our paper on the interaction of Par-3 with Par-6 and aPKC is published in Current Biology
  • June 17, 2019 - Undergraduate researcher Hussein Al-Zubieri joins the group full time over the summer – welcome Hussein!
  • June 8, 2019 - Graduate student Elizabeth Vargas joins the group – welcome Elizabeth!
  • June 3, 2019 - Our paper on phosphorylation of the polarity protein Par-3 is published in Developmental Cell
  • May 7, 2019 - Our paper on neuroblast polarity dynamics is published in eLife

Take a look at our publications

Want a standard list? Try PubMed or Google Scholar.

Would you like to join us?

We currently have openings for a postdoc and a graduate student. Interested postdoc applicants should contact Ken directly to apply. The Prehoda Lab accepts graduate students through the University of Oregon Biology, Chemistry, and Physics graduate programs.