Portrait of a Powerhouse: Live-Cell Imaging to Monitor Mitochondrial Behavior, Therese C. Kichuk, GS (2311334)
Just as the human body is kept alive by the functioning of its organs, individual cells are dependent on the health of subcellular structures called organelles. Often, what comes to mind when we think of these subcellular structures, is a static scene- un-moving organelles suspended at fixed distances from one another. The reality of the subcellular environment, however, is infinitely more complex. Organelles can move, they can change shape, and they can form dynamic interactions with one another. One organelle in particular, the mitochondrion, is responsible for much of the cell’s energy production and plays a crucial role in cell survival. Abnormal functioning of this organelle is a key feature of diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. As many mitochondrial components are highly similar between human and yeast cells, I am able to use the simple and well characterized organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae in order to investigate questions relating to human health. By expressing fluorescent proteins within these yeast, I can use live-cell microscopy to directly visualize the mitochondria and their interactions with other subcellular structures such as the endoplasmic reticulum. My thesis work centers on investigating how the functionality of different mitochondrial components impacts mitochondrial dynamics, morphology, and inter-organelle contacts. The goal of my work is to further our understanding of the mitochondrial connection between metabolic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases in order to improve treatments for both.