Welcome to the Kovar Lab

Cells utilize diverse actin cytoskeleton networks with distinct architectures and dynamics to facilitate fundamental processes such as polarization, endocytosis, motility and division. The particular characteristics of different networks (actin filament density, organization and dynamics) are determined through the coordination action of specific sets of actin binding proteins (ABPs) with complementary binding properties and activities. Moreover, cells typically assemble and maintain multiple F-actin networks simultaneously within the same cytoplasm. Consequently, F-actin networks must self-organize from a common pool of shared actin monomers and overlapping sets of ABPs. We predict that there is important crosstalk (interactions) between networks that are critical for their form and function. Our long-term goal is to discover the direct and indirect interactions between self-organized F-actin networks, which are required for establishing their unique identities and functions within a common cytoplasm, and to determine the underlying molecular mechanistic principles that govern these interactions. We investigate actin cytoskeleton network self-organization utilizing an array of complementary quantitative approaches including (1) genetics and live cell fluorescent microscopy, (2) multi-color single molecule imaging of in vitro actin filament networks reconstituted from ensembles of ABPs, and (3) mathematical modeling.

Movie 1: Effects of addition and washout of the Arp2/3 complex inhibitor CK-666 on fission yeast cells expressing the general F-actin marker Lifeact-GFP. Movie courtesy of Dr. Tom Burke

 Movie 2: Actin (Green) elongating while Fascin (Red) and α-Actinin (unlabeled) segregate into mutually exclusive domains on two-filament bundles. Movie courtesy of Dr. Jon Winkelman


Movie 3: TIRF microscopy imaging of cyan-labeled fimbrin (Fim1) molecules bundling green-labeled actin filaments inducing cooperative removal of magenta-labeled tropomyosin (Cdc8). Movie courtesy of Dr. Jenna Christensen


Greta visits lab!

A new friend named Greta came to lab on Wednesday. They chilled in an ice bucket, attended meetings, and helped Sarah C. learn how to use Adobe Illustrator!

David doing an experiment

Step 1: Orbital Shaker making a little noise when rotating.

Step 2: David fixing the noise problem.

Step 3: Orbital Shaker stop making noise laughing

Step 4: Also, stop rotating sealed


Vil's 1st successful cloning (but clone the wrong construct ¯_(ツ)_/¯)

Katie Homa, PhD

Katie Homa defended her thesis work, titled “Self-organization of the fission yeast actin cytoskeleton,” on April 26th. Congrats, Dr. Katie Homa!

Alyssa Harker, PhD

Alyssa’s public defense was held on November 2nd. The title of her thesis work is “Investigating molecular mechanisms and dynamics of Ena/Vasp and other actin binding proteins.” Congratulations Alyssa!

Graduation ceremony

Our two graduates took part in the university hooding ceremony on June 14th. They were hooded by our very own Dr. David Kovar.