Ulrike Gruneberg

Regulation of Mitotic Progression and Chromosome Segregation

Cell division is fundamental for growth and development of an organism. As millions of cell divisions have to occur before an organism reaches its final size and even in a fully-grown organism cells have to be constantly replaced, high fidelity of cell division and, in particular, chromosome segregation is critical to prevent diseases such as cancer. Our goal is to elucidate how cells ensure faithful chromosome segregation, and which aspects of this go awry in cancer cells.

Research in the laboratory focuses on understanding how equal chromosome segregation is achieved during mammalian cell division and how aberrant ploidies, often observed in tumour cells, change the requirements for successful mitosis. Faithful genome segregation requires the attachment of the paired sister chromatids making up each chromosome to spindle microtubules from opposite poles of the mitotic spindle, as only this arrangement will result in accurate division of the sister chromatids to the progeny cells at the metaphase-to-anaphase transition. The correct attachment of the chromosomes to the microtubules via kinetochores is a critical prerequisite for successful chromosome segregation and is monitored by two crucial, interlinked cellular surveillance systems: error correction and spindle assembly checkpoint signalling. Error correction refers to the turn-over of microtubule-kinetochore attachments of incorrect geometries, transiently generating unattached kinetochores. Spindle assembly checkpoint signalling is intimately connected to the error correction process and delays cell cycle progression into anaphase until any incorrect or missing microtubule-kinetochore attachments have been fixed. These mechanisms are essential for safeguarding the success of chromosome segregation but many aspects of the underlying molecular biology remain poorly understood, and are the focus of our research.

Our main research questions are:

  • How are error correction and spindle checkpoint signalling coordinated and integrated?
  • How do kinase-phosphatase balances regulate the metaphase-to-anaphase transition?
  • Do aberrant ploidies predispose cells to mitotic vulnerabilities?

To study these processes, we use mammalian tissue culture cells of different genetic backgrounds and ploidies. We employ a combination of molecular biology, including CRISPR/Cas9 genetic modification of cell lines, biochemical and cell biological methods, imaging of both live and fixed cells, as well as mass spectrometry and in vitro kinase and phosphatase assays for our research.

Research in the Gruneberg lab is funded by a Cancer Research UK Discovery Programme grant.

Group members

  • Ulrike Gruneberg (Group leader)
  • Emile Roberts (PhD student)
  • Manton Leung (Postdoc)
  • Isabel Leitch (PhD student)
  • Daniel Grant (PhD student)
  • Rhiannon French (Postdoc)

Selected Publications

Latest news

A changing view of how MPS1 initiates the Spindle Assembly Checkpoint

November 2022

A new study published in Current Biology by the Gruneberg lab advances our understanding of the mechanisms by which cells correct mistakes during chromosome segregation. 3.8 million duplicated genomes have to segregate equally into daughter cells every second in our body to maintain normal cell and tissue function. Any problem in the chromosome segregation process...

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Prestigious BSCB prize for Iona Manley

May 2022

The Gruneberg lab student was recognised with the BSCB Young Cell Biologist of the Year Prize At the recent BSCB/BSDB joint spring conference at the University of Warwick, Iona Manley, a 4th year PhD student in the Gruneberg lab, won this year’s BSCB Young Cell Biologist of the Year Prize with her poster “A novel...

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Prof Ulrike Gruneberg awarded a Discovery Programme Award by CRUK

February 2022

These prestigious 5-year grants from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) “provide long-term support for outstanding established scientists in basic or translational research fields” under CRUK’s overarching aim: “to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured”. Prof Gruneberg first established her research group at the University of Liverpool, joining the Dunn school in 2013, and...

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Three Dunn School academics recognised with Full Professor title

December 2021

Many congratulations to Omer Dushek, Fumiko Esashi and Ulrike Gruneberg We are delighted to announce that three Dunn School group leaders were recognised in this year’s University of Oxford Recognition of Distinction exercise. Omer Dushek is now Professor of Molecular Immunology. His group investigates the immunology of T cell receptor signal integration, at the interface...

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Available student projects