Research Summary

Modern molecular biology presents us with a growing list of molecules that build a living cell. However, how the diverse activities of these molecules are coordinated in space and time to generate functional cell biology is an increasingly complex and essentially unresolved question. My research program focuses on the microtubule cytoskeleton, a highly dynamic filament system inside cells that is critically important to spatially and temporally organize eukaryotic cells during cell migration, division and differentiation. One of my long-term scientific goals is to elucidate molecular mechanisms by which local control of the MT cytoskeleton guides complex cell behaviors, and we are particularly interested in the function of protein complexes at growing microtubule ends. Addressing questions on local dynamic processes in cells also requires novel experimental approaches, and to achieve this goal we are employing advanced quantitative live cell microscopy combined with ‘opto-cell biology’ that we define as synthetic light-control of cellular protein activity with high spatial and temporal precision.

Research Funding

  • June 15, 2018 - February 28, 2023 - Probing Microtubule Function in Neuronal Development , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01NS107480
  • September 20, 2020 - September 19, 2021 - Wide-field super-resolution spinning disk confocal microscope , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: S10OD028611
  • June 10, 2017 - May 31, 2020 - Dissecting protein activities by reversible photo-inactivation , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R21CA224194
  • May 1, 2008 - December 31, 2017 - Microtubule dynamics during cell polarity and migration , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01GM079139

Education

  • University of Basel, Switzerland M.S. 11/90-10/94 Biology
  • University of Heidelberg, Germany Ph.D. 09/95-05/99 Cell Biology
  • EMBL Heidelberg, Germany Postdoc 06/99-06/00 Cell Biology
  • The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla Postdoc 08/00-10/05 Cell Biology/Microscopy

Honors & Awards

  • 2003 1st prize, Nikon Small World Photomicrography Competition, (3rd in 2004; 5th in 2002)
  • 2007 American Heart Association Scientist Development Award
  • 2010 NIH/NIGMS Eureka Award

Selected Publications

  1. Stormo AED, Shavarebi F, FitzGibbon M, Earley EM, Ahrendt H, Lum LS, Verschueren E, Swaney DL, Skibinski G, Ravisankar A, van Haren J, Davis EJ, Johnson JR, Von Dollen J, Balen C, Porath J, Crosio C, Mirescu C, Iaccarino C, Dauer WT, Nichols RJ, Wittmann T, Cox TC, Finkbeiner S, Krogan NJ, Oakes SA, Hiniker A. The E3 ligase TRIM1 ubiquitinates LRRK2 and controls its localization, degradation, and toxicity. J Cell Biol. 2022 04 04; 221(4).  View on PubMed
  2. Dema A, van Haren J, Wittmann T. Optogenetic EB1 inactivation shortens metaphase spindles by disrupting cortical force-producing interactions with astral microtubules. Curr Biol. 2022 03 14; 32(5):1197-1205.e4.  View on PubMed
  3. Dema A, Rahgozar S, Siquier L, van Haren J, Wittmann T. Controlling Cell Shape and Microtubule Organization by Extracellular Matrix Micropatterning. Methods Mol Biol. 2022; 2430:467-481.  View on PubMed
  4. Webb BA, Aloisio FM, Charafeddine RA, Cook J, Wittmann T, Barber DL. pHLARE: a new biosensor reveals decreased lysosome pH in cancer cells. Mol Biol Cell. 2021 01 15; 32(2):131-142.  View on PubMed
  5. Zhang J, Velmeshev D, Hashimoto K, Huang YH, Hofmann JW, Shi X, Chen J, Leidal AM, Dishart JG, Cahill MK, Kelley KW, Liddelow SA, Seeley WW, Miller BL, Walther TC, Farese RV, Taylor JP, Ullian EM, Huang B, Debnath J, Wittmann T, Kriegstein AR, Huang EJ. Neurotoxic microglia promote TDP-43 proteinopathy in progranulin deficiency. Nature. 2020 12; 588(7838):459-465.  View on PubMed
  6. Wittmann T, Dema A, van Haren J. Lights, cytoskeleton, action: Optogenetic control of cell dynamics. Curr Opin Cell Biol. 2020 10; 66:1-10.  View on PubMed
  7. Bradley Webb, Anne Dosey, Torsten Wittmann, Justin Kollmann, Diane Barber. Filament assembly by the liver phosphofructokinase-1, the “gatekeeper” of glycolysis. The FASEB Journal. 2020 Apr 1; 34(S1):1-1.  View on PubMed
  8. van Haren J, Adachi LS, Wittmann T. Optogenetic Control of Microtubule Dynamics. Methods Mol Biol. 2020; 2101:211-234.  View on PubMed
  9. Charafeddine RA, Cortopassi WA, Lak P, Tan R, McKenney RJ, Jacobson MP, Barber DL, Wittmann T. Tau repeat regions contain conserved histidine residues that modulate microtubule-binding in response to changes in pH. J Biol Chem. 2019 05 31; 294(22):8779-8790.  View on PubMed
  10. van Haren J, Wittmann T. Microtubule Plus End Dynamics - Do We Know How Microtubules Grow?: Cells boost microtubule growth by promoting distinct structural transitions at growing microtubule ends. Bioessays. 2019 03; 41(3):e1800194.  View on PubMed
  11. Rabab A Charafeddine, Wilian A Cortopassi, Parnian Lak, Matthew P Jacobson, Diane L Barber, Torsten Wittmann. Conserved tau microtubule-binding repeat histidines confer pH-dependent tau-microtubule association. bioRxiv. 2018 Dec 4; 486688.  View on PubMed
  12. Jeffrey van Haren, Rabab Charafeddine, Andreas Ettinger, Hui Wang, Klaus M. Hahn, Torsten Wittmann. Optical Control of EB1 Reveals Local Functions of the Microtubule +TIP Complex During Cell Migration and Division. Biophysical Journal. 2018 Feb 1; 114(3):382a.  View on PubMed
  13. Bradley Webb, Annie Dosey, Torsten Wittmann, Justin Kollman, Diane Barber. The Glycolytic Enzyme Phosphofructokinase-1 Assembles into Filaments. Biophysical Journal. 2018 Feb 1; 114(3):228a.  View on PubMed
  14. van Haren J, Charafeddine RA, Ettinger A, Wang H, Hahn KM, Wittmann T. Local control of intracellular microtubule dynamics by EB1 photodissociation. Nat Cell Biol. 2018 03; 20(3):252-261.  View on PubMed
  15. Webb BA, Dosey AM, Wittmann T, Kollman JM, Barber DL. The glycolytic enzyme phosphofructokinase-1 assembles into filaments. J Cell Biol. 2017 08 07; 216(8):2305-2313.  View on PubMed
  16. Pemble H, Kumar P, van Haren J, Wittmann T. GSK3-mediated CLASP2 phosphorylation modulates kinetochore dynamics. J Cell Sci. 2017 04 15; 130(8):1404-1412.  View on PubMed
  17. Kenific CM, Wittmann T, Debnath J. Autophagy in adhesion and migration. J Cell Sci. 2016 10 15; 129(20):3685-3693.  View on PubMed
  18. Ettinger A, van Haren J, Ribeiro SA, Wittmann T. Doublecortin Is Excluded from Growing Microtubule Ends and Recognizes the GDP-Microtubule Lattice. Curr Biol. 2016 06 20; 26(12):1549-1555.  View on PubMed
  19. Kenific CM, Stehbens SJ, Goldsmith J, Leidal AM, Faure N, Ye J, Wittmann T, Debnath J. NBR1 enables autophagy-dependent focal adhesion turnover. J Cell Biol. 2016 Feb 29; 212(5):577-90.  View on PubMed
  20. Prochazka J, Prochazkova M, Du W, Spoutil F, Tureckova J, Hoch R, Shimogori T, Sedlacek R, Rubenstein JL, Wittmann T, Klein OD. Migration of Founder Epithelial Cells Drives Proper Molar Tooth Positioning and Morphogenesis. Dev Cell. 2015 Dec 21; 35(6):713-24.  View on PubMed

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