Omar Quintero, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Richmond, will deliver a seminar titled “More Than a Meme: How Studying Mitochondrial Motility with Undergraduates Has Been the Powerhouse of My Career.”
The goal of Quintero lab (Q-lab) is to investigate the functional, enzymatic and biochemical properties of myosin-XIX (MYO19), an uncharacterized class of myosin motor involved in mitochondrial dynamics. Specifically, we are currently using cell-based quantitative microscopy assays to determine the roles that MYO19 plays in normal cellular function. Using transient siRNA interference, we recently demonstrated that loss of MYO19 results in cell division defects including cytokinesis failure and asymmetric distribution of mitochondria in the two daughter cells. Using lentiviral approaches, we have generated cell lines stably expressing shRNA against MYO19 and are currently assaying these different cell types for changes in mitochondrial activity, motile behavior and differentiation when levels of MYO19 are decreased. We are also currently using in vitro biochemistry approaches, including transient kinetics assays and motility assays, to determine the rate and equilibrium constants and motility properties of the MYO19 motor domain (collaboration with Eva Forgacs at Eastern Virginia Medical School). By focusing specifically on the role of “conserved sequence differences” specific to class XIX myosins, our goal is to better understand MYO19 function specifically, and better understand myosin mechanochemistry in general. As MYO19 interacts with mitochondria via a novel, uncharacterized MYO19/mitochondrial outer membrane association domain (MyMOMA), we have used bioinformatics analysis and mutational analysis to identify specific sequences within the MyMOMA domain required for mitochondrial binding. Our most recent publication (https://doi.org/10.1002/cm.21560) used proteomics approaches to identify proteins that interact with MYO19. The proteomics work is with the support of Ben Major at UNC-Chapel Hill. As University of Richmond is a primarily undergraduate institution (PUI) with no graduate programs, nearly all of this work was completed by undergraduates. One of the driving principles of the Q-lab is the idea that fundamental research practice is excellent training for future researchers and future doctors, as well as for a well-informed citizenry.