Research Group of Dr Ahna Skop, University of Wisconsin

Research Group of Dr Ahna Skop, University of Wisconsin

Ahna Skop is assistant professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Ahna, who is an accomplished artist in addition to being a scientist, has always encouraged her colleagues to see the beauty in biology. Her research team is focused on learning the secrets of cell division, hoping to understand the mysteries of cytokinesis and improve treatments for diseases like cancer. Cell division is required for the propagation of all living things. A critical phase of cell division occurs just after segregation of the duplicated genome, when the chromosomes, cytoplasm and organelles are partitioned to two daughter cells in a process termed cytokinesis. In animal cells, cytokinesis is driven by a cortical contraction that physically pinches the cell into two, and requires coordination of the mitotic spindle, actin cytoskeleton and plasma membrane. Failures in cytokinesis can cause cell death and age-related disorders, or lead to a genome amplification characteristic of many cancers. Although cytokinesis has been studied for over 125 years, little is known about the molecular factors and mechanisms involved.

The Skop lab particularly interested in understanding how the cleavage furrow is established, how the completion of cytokinesis is achieved and what roles the spindle midzone and midbody play in cell division. The laboratory integrates multiple approaches in both mammalian and C. elegans systems to identify and characterize conserved factors, taking advantage of proteomics, functional genomics, genetics, cell biology and video-microscopy techniques. They are currently focusing on characterizing the function of several membrane-cytoskeletal proteins identified by proteomic analysis of the mammalian midbody in both C. elegans and mammalian systems.

Ahna received her undergraduate degree at Syracuse University before receiving her PhD at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in the laboratory of John White. She did her Postdoctoral work studying cytokinesis in the laboratories of Rebecca Heald and Barbara Meyer at the University of California, Berkeley before moving to her current position in the Genetics Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 2004.

Ahna and her group use an Openlab high-speed 4D time-lapse imaging system on a motorized Zeiss 200M inverted microscope and work with a Yokogawa spinning disk confocal scan head to capture live, fluorescent images of dividing mammalian tissue culture cells and C. elegans embryos. Her system is set up to capture both DIC and confocal images on a Macintosh G5 workstation. Since Ahna's system was installed in 2004 Improvision has developed Volocity to acquire images using the spinning disk head, within the product called the Volocity Spinning Disk Confocal.

Ahna writes "Openlab has been invaluable to my lab’s reasearch. Openlab is user friendly and we especially like the ability to graphically write microscope automations. The Openlab state savers are useful for a multi-user setup and we like the ease of use for both DIC and confocal modes that they provide. Most importantly our lab is indepted to our Improvision rep, Grant Bolwell, for setting up and trouble shooting our system. Grant has been a fantastic resource and is always available when we run into problems. He clearly knows the systems inside and out and we cannot thank him enough for the support that he provides."

Please visit the Lab’s web site for more information about the group’s research.

Figure: Tubulin::GFP dynamics in the C. elegans embryo. a). Sperm and egg pronuclei meet in the posterior during prometaphase. b). The pronuclei rotate onto the anterior-posterior axis. c). Mitotic spindle during anaphase. d). Midbody formation during late telophase/cytokinesis. Image acquired by Yunsik Kang.

A Chinese hamster ovary cell (CHO) cell in anaphase. Actin (red), tubulin (green) and DNA (blue) are labeled.