Research Group of Professor Duane Compton

Research Group of Professor Duane Compton

Duane Compton and colleagues from left to right they are Amity Manning, Samuel Bakhoum, Skye Zeller, Swapna Kollu, Sarah Thompson, and Duane Compton.

Professor Duane Compton is a Principal Investigator at Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, New Hampshire, USA. His research group combines biochemical and cell biological techniques to understand how chromosome movement is generated during cell division in human cells. They want to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the orderly assembly of microtubules into the bipolar spindle apparatus and how forces are generated within the spindle to drive chromosome movement.

Using biochemical techniques, Duane’s group have developed a cell free mitotic extract that mimics the assembly of spindle poles (microtubule asters) and have used this system to identify and characterize the proteins responsible for focusing microtubule minus ends at spindle poles. The group visualize chromosome movement and spindle assembly in living cells using time-lapse microscopy. By combining this technique with the ability to selectively block the activity of specific spindle proteins they are determining how specific motor and structural proteins drive chromosome movement in live cells.

As a graduate student at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas Duane studied cancer genetics with Dr. Grady F. Saunders. Specifically, he developed a structural and genetic map of the Wilms' tumor locus on the short arm of chromosome 11. This map helped locate and identify the genes responsible for sporadic Wilms tumor and Aniridia (a rare ocular disorder characterized by the lack of an iris).

For postdoctoral training Duane moved to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland to work in the lab of Dr. Don W. Cleveland. Here he began studying cell division with an emphasis on the identification of new protein components of the mitotic spindle and kinetochore. In 1993 Duane moved to Dartmouth Medical School where he has continued his studies of the mechanisms of spindle assembly and chromosome movement.

Duane’s research group use Openlab software to drive a Zeiss Axioplan 2 microscope. On this system they perform time lapse DIC and fluorescence microscopy of human cultured cells, using the deconvolution package in Openlab to process the images. The microscope is also used to perform photoactivation experiments using a micropoint laser.

Phylum Live software is used to drive a Nikon TE2000-E microscope. This is used for time lapse phase contrast and fluorescence microscopy of human cells with Image Restoration in Phylum Live being used for image processing. This microscope also has an Eppendorf microinjection set up.

Duane says “We’ve used Improvision products for many years and have always appreciated how seamlessly the software integrates microscope automation with image processing. The technical support staff are also very responsive which is a real asset when we encounter problems.”

For more information on the Compton Lab please visit their impressive website where you will find a number of stunning images and movies of their work. Also, look out for the cover of the August issue of Molecular Biology of the Cell which will feature one of their images.

This is an image of a human U2OS cell during the prometaphase stage of mitosis. It is stained for DNA (blue), microtubules (red), and Kif2b (green). Kif2b localizes strongly to centrosomes throughout the cell cycle, but shows pronounced staining of kinetochores in prometaphase.