Alex Bannigan

Alex Bannigan

Assistant Professor of Biology
Director of Microscopy

B.Sc. -  University of Sydney, Australia
Ph.D. -  University of Sydney, Australia 

E-mail -
Phone - 540-568-4521
Fax - 540-568-3333
Office - Bioscience 2036

Office Hours   |   Personal web page

Courses:   Organisms Lab (BIO 114), Research Readiness (BIO 226), Microscopy (BIO432 / BIO532), Biological Illustration (BIO 426), Graduate seminar in cell and molecular biology (BIO 630)

Research Interests:  Organization of the plant cytoskeleton in interphase and mitosis

In plants, the microtubule cytoskeleton has several roles. Just like in other kinds of cells, the microtubules make up the mitotic spindle and determine the cell’s shape during interphase, but in plants, the orientation of the microtubules also determines the direction in which the plant grows. 

I have two main areas of interest, both concerning the microtubule cytoskeleton in plants. 

The first is: how do plant cells grow together in a co-ordinated way? This must involve cell-to-cell communication and intercellular organization of the cytoskeleton so that all the cells grow in the same direction.

The second is: How different is plant mitosis from animal mitosis? The spindles themselves look slightly different between phyla, and very few of the molecular mechanisms are known in plants. There is evidence that many of the same motors that are important for mitosis in animal cells also play a role in plant mitosis, but there is still much to be learned. Also, mitotic checkpoints are relatively unexplored in plants. Some that are well known in animal systems could be different or absent in plants.

I have been investigating these questions, primarily through microscopy, with two arabidospsis mutants: rsw6, which is defective in intercellular microtubule alignment, and rsw7, which lacks a crucial mitotic motor protein.

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