Faculty Spotlight: Margot Quinlan

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The second in our Faculty Spotlight series of newly tenured faculty (Bouchard, Quinlan & Torres), this week’s feature focuses on Professor Margot Quinlan.

Quinlan obtained her B.A. at Reed College in 1991. She then spent two years in Germany doing research at the University of Erlangen-Nurnberg. She went to graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania where she was a HHMI predoctoral fellow in the lab of Yale Goldman. She received her Ph.D. in 2002. As a graduate student, Quinlan built the first microscope capable of measuring the three dimensional orientation of single fluorescent molecules in real time. Using this instrument, she helped make the first direct measurements of myosin lever arm rotation. Quinlan worked as a postdoctoral fellow at UC San Francisco with Prof. Dyche Mullins until 2008. During this time, she discovered the founding member of a novel class of actin nucleators and described the first known case of a direct interaction between two actin nucleators. In July of 2008 she joined the faculty in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA.

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Members of the Quinlan group (from left) Aanand Patel, Emma Carley, Kathryn Bremer, Jeff Wang, Prof. Margot Quinlan, Alex Bradley, Joe Walsh, and William Silkworth. Quinlan’s research group is using biochemistry, microscopy and genetic approaches to study dynamics of the actin cytoskeleton. They are currently focusing on Spire and Cappuccino, two proteins that collaborate to build an actin network essential for early body axis development in Drosophila. UtrnCH Mesh
In the movie (right) the actin mesh is visualized in a stage 9 Drosophila oocyte. Actin is labeled with UtrnCH-GFP (the actin binding calponin homology domain of the protein, utrophin, which labels filamentous actin fused to green fluorescent protein). Images were acquired every 10 seconds. This mesh, built by Spire and Cappuccino, prevents premature rearrangement of cellular contents. It is necessary for polarity establishment. (Refresh page to repeat movie.) Combining an in vitro understanding of the mechanism of Spir and Capu with in vivo studies of oogenesis will provide insight into how the actin cytoskeleton is regulated and a broader understanding of cell polarity.  Quinlan has published 36 papers, 20 of which were published while at UCLA. Her awards and honors include the 2013 ΑΧΣ (UCLA) Glenn T. Seaborg Award, the UCLA Faculty Career Development Award (2012 and 2014), named one of the Top 20 Women Professors in California by StateStats.org (2013), a Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award from the March of Dimes and a Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences from the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund. To learn more about Quinlan’s research visit her group’s website.