Zemer Gitai

ZemerĀ Gitai
Beckman Young Investigators

Award Year

Princeton University



Research Title:
Quantitative Analysis of Cell Biological Dynamics in Bacteria

Cell biology is fundamentally the study of spatial and temporal molecular dynamics. My lab studies cellular properties such as morphology, protein localization, and protein trafficking in bacteria. Bacteria serve as excellent experimental systems with great potential for identifying therapeutically beneficial antibiotic drug targets. Historically, our analysis of spatial and temporal cellular dynamics has been limited by out qualitative and descriptive methods. We have overcome several of these limitations through the development and implementation of quantitative tools for the study of cell biology. By combining these new ways of analyzing properties such as cell morphology and protein localization with classical genetics and molecular biology, we have been able to dissect the functions and dynamics of the newly-discovered bacterial actin homolog, MreB. These studies revealed that MreB uses a dynamic filamentous structure to coordinate spatial information within the cell, simultaneously regulating cell shape, polar protein localization, and chromosome segregation. Now that we have assembled all the tools and resources necessary, we are poised to answer questions that have previously proved elusive due to their complexity or scale. Specifically, we are probing the assembly and function of the bacterial cell division complex whose ordered assembly provides the force necessary for cell constriction. We are also using high-throughput methods to examine the genome-wide profile of bacterial protein localization. In addition to furthering our own studies, the quantitative approaches we have developed are broadly applicable and should assist other cell biologists working in a wide array of experimental systems.

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