Melissa K. Gardner, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Development

Melissa K. Gardner

Contact Info

Office Phone 612-626-6760

Office Address:
5-245G Moos
515 Delaware Street SE
Minneapolis, MN 554555

Lab Address:
6-166 MCB



Chromatin mechanics and dynamics; Quantitative fluorescence microscopy


Research Summary/Interests

  • Cell division
  • Genetic disease
  • Pathogenic anti-fungal drug resistance
  • Cancer

Research Interests

Biophysical Studies of Mitotic Microtubule Dynamics and Spindle Function Our research group uses a combination experimental and computational approach to dissect molecular mechanisms for how cells divide, and for how cell division can be controlled to prevent genetic diseases, pathogenic anti-fungal drug resistance, and cancer. Specifically, we are interested in how proteins regulate the dynamics and mechanics of critical cell division components. These components include microtubules, which align duplicated chromosomes and then pull them apart during cell division, and also the chromosomes themselves, whose own mechanics contribute to their proper segregation during mitosis. Our overarching goal is to improve human health by developing an improved mechanistic understanding for how cells divide.

The primary experimental tools in the Gardner lab are single-molecule Total Internal Reflection Fluorescence (TIRF) microscopy, and electron microscopy. We image living cells using quantitative fluorescence microscopy, and also purify proteins such as tubulin (which is the building block of microtubules) and other microtubule-associated proteins to observe their interactions outside of the cell. We use biophysical computational modeling to better integrate and understand our experimental observations, make new experimental predictions, and to test whether our proposed cellular mechanisms are physically reasonable. We broaden all of our experimental observations with extensive quantitative image analysis, in order to squeeze as much information as possible out of every collected experimental image. Overall, we are a cellular biophysics laboratory that combines cell biology tools with biophysical methods to shed new light on the regulation of cell division.


Selected Publications (Pubmed Search)

  • Hepperla, A.J., Willey, P.T., Coombes, C.E., Schuster, B.M., Gerami-Nejad, M., McClellan, M., Mukherjee, S., Fox, J., Winey, M., Odde, D.J., O’Toole, E.T., and Gardner, M.K. (2014), “Minus-End Directed Kinesin-14 Motors Align Anti-Parallel Microtubules to Control Metaphase Spindle Length”, Developmental Cell (In Press)
  • Chacón, J.M., Mukherjee, S., Schuster, B.M., Clarke, D.J., and, Gardner, M.K., (2014) “Pericentromere Tension is Self-Regulated by Spindle Structure in Metaphase”, Journal of Cell Biology; 205(3):313-24
  • Chacón, J.M. and Gardner, M.K, “Analysis and Modeling of Chromosome Congression During Mitosis in the Chemotherapy Drug Cisplatin”, (2013) Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering; 6(4): 406-17
  • Coombes, C.E., Yamamoto A., Kenzie, M.R., Odde, D.J., Gardner M.K., (2013) “Evolving tip structures can explain age-dependent microtubule catastrophe”, Curr Biol. Jul 22; 23(14):1342-8
  • Gardner, M.K., Zanic, M., Gell, C., Bormuth, V., and J. Howard, (2011) “Depolymerizing Kinesins Kip3 and MCAK Shape Cellular Microtubule Architecture by Differential Control of Catastrophe”, Cell 147(5):1092-103
  • Gardner, M.K., Charlebois, B.D., Janosi, I.M., Howard, J., Hunt, A.J., and D.J. Odde, (2011) “Rapid Microtubule Self-assembly Kinetics”, Cell 146(4):1247-60.