Samara Reck-Peterson, PhD

  • Assistant Professor
  • Harvard Medical School, Department of Cell Biology

Intracellular cargo movement: the role of molecular motors

Explore the role of dynein in molecular cargo transport

Commercial Opportunities

Gain insights into the mechanisms of intracellular transport in Aspergillus to identify novel antifungal targets

Dr. Reck-Peterson’s research on the fungus Aspergillus holds great promise for yielding novel antifungal targets that are suitable for pharmaceutical development. Aspergillosis can take different forms and each form affects different patient populations. For example, allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis, which is characterized by respiratory symptoms, is observed in cystic fibrosis patients. Invasive aspergillosis affects various organs of the body, and can cause opportunistic infections in immunocompromised patients. Investigating intracellular transport, which is necessary for Aspergillus pathogenecity, could uncover drug targets for the development of improved antifungal medicines. 

Current Research Interests

Dr. Reck-Peterson investigates the relatively unexplored area of intracellular transport that is carried out by mechanochemical enzymes such as dynein. Her lab researches how chemical energy is converted into directional, microtubule-based movement of organelles and macromolecules. Molecular motors, such as dynein, extract power from ATP hydrolysis to mediate this process. The lab performs high resolution, high signal-to-noise ratio experiments using sophisticated techniques, such as total internal reflection microscopy, a laser-based imaging methodology that enables single molecule tracking at the nanometer level. Her lab also uses genetic engineering techniques with yeast to prepare recombinant proteins for these studies. 

Dr. Reck-Peterson is also studying intracellular transport in the filamentous fungus Aspergillus. This organism is ideal for studying molecular motors and microtubule-based transport because it forms long filamentous branches, called hyphae, which require extensive cargo shuttling. Aspergillus is also amenable to functional genomic approaches. 

Research Expertise

Dr. Reck-Peterson is an expert in the molecular mechanics of intracellular transport of several macromolecules, especially the large molecular motor dynein. The large, multiprotein dynein complex mediates microtubule-based, cytoplasmic transport of organelles, nucleic acids, and other molecules. Dr. Reck-Peterson’s previous studies have shed light on the biochemical mechanisms of dynein activity. While working in the lab of Dr. Ronald Vale, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Dr. Reck-Peterson published important data on dynein’s mechanism of action. Single molecule analysis demonstrated that dynein moves in forward, backward, and side steps, and that these steps can vary in size, suggesting that dynein uses a different mechanism than kinesin, another molecular motor.

Related Keywords

Biological Mechanisms and Pathways
  • Cell division •
  • Cellular motor •
  • Cytoskeleton •
  • Dynein •
  • Functional genomics •
  • Intracellular transport •
  • Kinesin •
  • Mechanochemical enzyme •
  • Microtubules •
  • Molecular motor •
  • Motor protein
Central Nervous System
  • Neurodegenerative disease
Disease Mechanisms
  • Cytoskeletal disease •
  • Neurodegenerative disease •
  • Opportunistic pathogen
Infectious Disease
  • Aspergillus •
  • Fungus •
  • Opportunistic pathogen
Research Tools and Instrumentation
  • Microscopy •
  • Total internal reflection microscopy •
  • Yeast
Therapeutic Discovery Tools and Assays
  • Yeast
  • Antifungal