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Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences

Laura Anne Lowery

assistant professor of biology

Dr. Laura Anne Lowery

Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Lowery Lab Website

Fields of Interest

Cytoskeletal dynamics during cell migration, axon outgrowth, development of the nervous system

Academic Profile

One of the most remarkable feats in early neural development occurs when each neuron sends out an axon tipped with a growth cone, which navigates through the embryonic terrain and interprets guidance cues to find and connect with its final target. Abnormalities in axon guidance are associated with a multitude of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. Many decades of axon guidance research have defined key extracellular cues and signaling pathways for this process, yet we still do not understand how these cues translate into the coordinated cytoskeletal dynamics that drive the morphological responses (advance, retraction, and turning) of the growth cone.

A long-term goal of our lab is to understand how cytoskeletal coordination occurs in the embryonic growth cone. Specifically, we focus on the regulation of the plus-ends of microtubules (MTs), which play a key role in growth cone steering. An important feature of MT plus-ends is the presence of a conserved set of proteins called 'plus-end tracking proteins' (+TIPs) that localize to the plus-ends and regulate their behavior. Evidence suggests that +TIPs act in response to upstream guidance cues by coordinating the downstream MT response.

Our research utilizes high-resolution live imaging and computational analysis of cytoskeletal behavior in cultured Xenopus laevis embryonic neurons to answer the question of how +TIPs interact and function within the growth cone to drive directed cell motility.

Representative Publications

Erdogan B, Ebbert P, Lowery LA. (2016) Using Xenopus laevis retinal and spinal neurons to study mechanisms of axon guidance in vivo and in vitro.Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, in press.

Cammarata G, Bearce E, Lowery LA. (2016) Cytoskeletal social networking in the growth cone: how +TIPs mediate microtubule-actin cross-linking to drive axon outgrowth and guidance. Cytoskeleton, doi: 10.1002/cm.21271 

Bearce B, Erdogan B, Lowery LA. (2015) TIPsy tour guides: How microtubule plus-end tracking proteins (+TIPS) facilitate axon guidance. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience. 9:241. doi: 10.3389/fncel.2015.00241.

Lucaj C, Evans M, Nwagbara B, Ebbert P, Baker C, Francl A, Ruvolo S, Lowery LA. (2015) Xenopus TACC1 is a microtubule plus-end tracking protein that can regulate microtubule dynamics during embryonic development. Cytoskeleton. 72(5):225-34.

Nwagbara B, Faris A, Bearce E, Erdogan B, Ebbert P, Evans M, Rutherford E, Enzenbacher T, Lowery LA. (2014) TACC3 is a microtubule plus-end tracking protein that promotes axon elongation and also regulates microtubule plus-end dynamics in multiple embryonic cell types. Molecular Biology of the Cell, Epub ahead of print.

Stout A, D'Amico S, Enzenbacher T, Ebbert P, Lowery LA. (2014) Using plusTipTracker software to measure microtubule dynamics in Xenopus laevis growth cones. Journal of Visualized Experiments (91) e52138.

Lowery LA. (2014) Axon guidance: FLRTing promotes attraction. Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 5, R198-R200. 

Lowery LA, Stout A, Faris AE, Ding L, Baird MA, Davidson MW, Danuser G, Van Vactor D. (2013) Growth cone-specific functions of XMAP215 in restricting microtubule dynamics and promoting axonal outgrowth. Neural Dev Dec 1;8(1):22.

Long JB, Bagonis M, Lowery LA, Lee H, Danuser G, Van Vactor D. (2013) Multiparametric analysis of CLASP-interacting protein functions during interphase microtubule dynamics. Mol Cell Biol  33(8):1528-45.

Lowery LA
, Faris AE, Stout A, Van Vactor D. (2012) Neural explant cultures from Xenopus laevisJournal of Visualized Experiments (68):e4232.  

Lowery LA
, Lee H, Lu C, Murphy R, Obar RA, Zhai B, Schedl M, Van Vactor D, Zhan Y. (2010) Parallel genetic and proteomic screens identify Msps as a CLASP-Abl pathway interactor in DrosophilaGenetics 185:1311-25. 

Lowery LA
 and Van Vactor D. (2009) The trip of the tip: understanding the growth cone machinery. Nature Reviews Mol Cell Biol 10:332-43.  

Lowery LA, Sive H. (2009) Totally tubular: the mystery behind function and origin of the brain ventricular system. Bioessays 31(4):446-58. 

Lowery LA, De Rienzo G, Gutzman J, Sive H. (2009) Characterization and classification of zebrafish brain morphology mutants. Anatomical Record 292(1):94-106.

Lowery LA, Rubin J, Sive H. (2007) wis/sfpq is required for cell survival and neuronal development in the zebrafish. Developmental Dynamics 

Lowery LA 
and Sive H. (2005) Initial formation of zebrafish brain ventricles occurs independently of circulation and requires the nagie oko and snakehead/ atp1a1a.1 gene products. Development 132(9):2057-67.  

Lowery LA
 and Sive H. (2004) Strategies of vertebrate neurulation and a re-evaluation of teleost neural tube formation. Mechanisms of Development 121(10):1189-97.



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