Jeremy Smyth, Ph.D.

Jeremy Smyth, Ph.D.

Jeremy Smyth

Name: Dr. Jeremy Smyth, Ph.D.

Department of Primary Appointment: Anatomy, Physiology & Genetics
Position: USU Faculty
Title: Assistant Professor

Affiliated Departments: Molecular & Cell Biology, Neuroscience

Email: Jeremy.Smyth@usuhs.edu (link sends e-mail)
Office Phone: (301) 295-5879
Room: C-2123

Links
Department Website
PubMed Listing

Profile

  • Postdoctoral, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
  • Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 2004
  • B.A., University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1999

Research Description

Research in our laboratory focuses on the interface between the morphology and function of the largest organelle in the cell, the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). The ER forms an elaborate, stunningly dynamic network of flat sheets and thin, lattice-like tubules throughout the cytoplasm in animal cells. Defects in ER morphogenesis underlie several debilitating neurodegenerative disorders such as Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia, illustrating the essential role of proper ER morphology in human physiology. However, mechanisms by which specific features of ER morphology and dynamics influence cellular and tissue physiology are still poorly understood. We address this fundamental problem by employing a number of powerful experimental systems, including Drosophila genetics and phenotypic analysis, live microscopy of human and Drosophila cells and tissues, and biochemical assays. We are particularly interested in understanding the functional interactions of the ER with the microtubule cytoskeleton, and are currently pursuing this topic through two related projects:

ER-microtubule interactions during cell division

As for most organelles, cells cannot generate the ER de novo; instead, they must inherit it during the process of cell division. This is not unlike the inheritance and partitioning of chromosomal DNA; however, unlike DNA, the mechanisms that regulate ER distribution and partitioning during cell division are largely unknown. We recently demonstrated that association of the ER with astral microtubules of the mitotic spindle is a conserved mechanism that regulates ER partitioning during both symmetric and asymmetric cell division. Our goal now is to identify the specific molecules that link the ER with spindle microtubules, and using Drosophila as an animal model, to further define the physiological role of mitotic ER partitioning in development and tissue homeostasis.

ER transport in neurons

Neurons are one of the most highly polarized cell types in the body, and the functional and molecular properties of dendrites, the receiving ends of neurons, are necessarily different from those in axons, the transmitting ends. Consistent with this, the organellar composition of axons and dendrites is differentially regulated through highly specific mechanisms. We are currently investigating cytoskeleton-based mechanisms that regulate the transport and functions of the ER in different neuronal compartments. This work is essential to the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, many of which are primarily caused by defects in organelle trafficking and homeostasis. This will also facilitate a greater understanding of neuronal response and repair following damage, such as traumatic brain injury (TBI).