Photo of smiling male undergraduate student Michael Spear.
2021 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

Home Department: Bioengineering
Mentor: Aaron Straight (Biochemistry)

“Determining the Role of Nucleic Acid Binding by M18BP1 in Centromere Assembly”

The centromere is the essential chromosomal site for mitotic spindle interaction during chromosome segregation. Centromeres are defined by the presence of the centromere specific histone H3 variant, CENtromere Protein A (CENP-A). CENP-A assembly depends on a three-protein complex termed the Mix18 complex (Mis18α, Mis18β, and M18BP1). Exactly how this process is localized at the centromere or how it functions in CENP-A assembly is unknown. The M18BP1 subunit of the complex has been shown to have nucleic acid binding domains which may be important for its role in centromere assembly. In order to understand whether M18BP1’s nucleic acid binding is important for CENP-A assembly, Michael is generating and analyzing M18BP1 mutants with deleted DNA binding domains in an effort to understand how M18BP1 recognizes the centromere. This research will help to understand how cells maintain the centromere for accurate chromosome segregation to avoid cancer associated aneuploidy and cell death.