Welcome to the Smith Lab


Our lab is interested in how a molecular motor protein called cytoplasmic dynein is regulated to carry out if multifaceted and vital roles in a wide range or organisms. Dynein can travel along protein highways called microtubules and transport a huge array of cellular cargos to different sub-cellular destinations. Dynein can also exert force on cellular components while tethered to specific locations in the cell.

We focus primarily on two dynein binding proteins LIS1 and NUDEL. NUDEL is sometimes called NDEL1.  In mammals these proteins are typically linked to brain development, where their interaction with dynein regulates a range of processes, including nuclear envelope breakdown, mitotic spindle orientation, neuronal migration and axon growth.

More recently we have uncovered important roles for these proteins in the adult nervous system, where they regulate dynein-dependent organelle transport within axonal processes.  This suggests the possibility that defects in this regulatory system could contribute to neurodegenerative diseases.

A current interest in the lab is to unravel the intricate signaling pathways that are present in different cell types. We have tied two kinase pathways to regulation of dynein activity, and are working “backwards” to try to understand which extracellular cues are involved, and how they control dynein. 

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka” but, “That’s funny....”

-Isaac Asimov

The Smith Lab at USC Columbia