Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan

Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab

Inner workings of a cell

Curious how cells are kept running like well-oiled machines, Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan uses high resolution, live cell imaging to investigate cellular dynamics within the crowded environment inside mammalian cells. Her particular interests include how protein motors sort and transport vital cargo into and throughout cells, and how they organise subcellular compartments – like mitochondria and endosomes – to maintain cellular function.

Monitoring the movement of these motors along a network of microtubules inside cells and their coordinated interactions with these microtubule tracks, she hopes to discover how cellular organisation changes during diseases like neurodegeneration, and how protein motors like cytoplasmic dynein-1 are involved in this re-organisation.

Cells employ motor proteins to carry out a myriad of functions including maintenance of cellular organization, transport of substances across the cell, and generation of forces required for cell division. These activities of motor proteins are facilitated by self-organizing polymers inside the cell including the microtubules. Microtubules function as tracks for motor movement, and alternately as ropes which motor proteins pull on. We have gained a wealth of information by replicating cellular processes involving motors and the cytoskeleton outside living cells, i.e. ‘in vitro’. However, understanding the complex intracellular milieu within which motors operate to organize the cell remains an elusive quest. A thorough investigation of processes regulating motors and microtubules therefore lets us see how these processes unravel in contexts of both health and disease (including neurodegeneration and cancers), where they go rogue.

The Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab (Cytomotors Lab) aims to investigate cellular organization brought about by the activity of motor proteins and the cytoskeleton across scales: from single molecules to whole organelles, by employing advanced live-cell microscopy techniques with high spatial and temporal resolution.

Vaishnavi's EMBL Australia profile

Learn more about the Cytomotors Lab

About Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan (she/her)

Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan graduated with a Ph.D. in Biophysics from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Dresden, Germany in 2014. Prior to this, Vaishnavi pursued a dual degree - M.Sc. Biological Sciences and B.E. Computer Science at BITS, Pilani, India. She started her independent group in 2014 at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore with her Dept. of Science and Technology (India) INSPIRE Faculty Award. She transitioned to an Assistant Professor position in the same institute in 2017. She was awarded the Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT, India) Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award in 2015, Science and Engineering Research Board (India) Early Career Research Award in 2016, and was elected Associate of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 2018. In 2019, she was inducted to the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) as a Young Investigator and was granted the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship. Most recently, her work was recognized with the Indian National Science Academy’s Medal for Young Scientists 2020. In June 2020, she co-founded BiasWatchIndia, an initiative to document representation of women, and to combat gender-biased panels at Indian science conferences.

Select Publications

Tirumala, N. A., Redpath, G. M. I., Skerhut, S. V., Dolai, P., Kapoor-Kaushik, N., Ariotti, N., Vijay Kumar, K., & Ananthanarayanan, V. (2024). Single-molecule imaging of stochastic interactions that drive dynein activation and cargo movement in cells. The J. Cell Biol. 223(3).

Chacko, L. A., Mikus, F., Ariotti, N., Dey, G., Ananthanarayanan, V.* (2023) Microtubule–mitochondrial attachment facilitates cell division symmetry and mitochondrial partitioning in fission yeast. J. Cell Sci. 136 (1), jcs260705

Chacko, L. A., Mehta, K., Ananthanarayanan, V.* (2019) Cortical tethering of mitochondria by the anchor protein Mcp5 enables uniparental inheritance. J. Cell Biol. 218 (11) 3560-3571.

Mehta, K., Chacko, L. A., Chug, M. K., Jhunjhunwala, S., Ananthanarayanan, V.* (2019) Association of mitochondria with microtubules inhibits mitochondrial fission by precluding activity of the fission protein Dnm1. J. Biol. Chem. 294(10) 3385–3396.

Thankachan, J. M., Nuthalapati, S. S., Tirumala, N. A., Ananthanarayanan, V.* (2017) Fission Yeast Myosin I Facilitates PI(4,5)P2 –mediated Anchoring of Cytoplasmic Dynein to the Cortex. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. 114: E2672-E2681.

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Career Highlights

  • American Society for Cell Biology Junior Award for Excellence in Research (Women In Cell Biology) (2021)
  • Indian National Science Academy Medal for Young Scientists (2020)
  • EMBO Young Investigator (2019)
  • JCS ‘Cell Scientist to Watch’ (2019)
  • Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship (2019)