Torsten Wittmann, PhD

Title(s)Professor, Cell and Tissue Biology
SchoolSchool of Dentistry
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    Collapse Biography 
    Collapse Education and Training
    University of Basel, SwitzerlandM.S.1994
    EMBL Heidelberg, GermanyPh.D.1999
    The Scripps Research InstitutePostdoc2005

    Collapse Overview 
    Collapse Overview
    Modern molecular biology presents us with a growing list of molecules that build a living cell. However, how the diverse activities of these molecules are coordinated in space and time to generate functional cell biology is an increasingly complex and essentially unresolved question. My research program focuses on the microtubule cytoskeleton, a highly dynamic filament system inside cells that is critically important to spatially and temporally organize eukaryotic cells during cell migration, division and differentiation. One of my long-term scientific goals is to elucidate molecular mechanisms by which local control of the MT cytoskeleton guides complex cell behaviors, and we are particularly interested in the function of protein complexes on growing microtubule ends. Addressing questions on local dynamic processes in cells also requires novel experimental approaches, and to achieve this goal we are employing advanced quantitative live cell microscopy combined with pioneering innovative ‘opto-cell biology’ that we define as synthetic light-control of cellular protein activity with high spatial and temporal precision.

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Probing Microtubule Function in Neuronal Development
    NIH/NINDS R01NS107480Jun 15, 2018 - Feb 28, 2023
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Dissecting protein activities by reversible photo-inactivation
    NIH/NCI R21CA224194Jun 10, 2017 - May 31, 2019
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Light-activated proteolysis as a tool to analyze intracellular protein function
    NIH/NIGMS R01GM094819Sep 1, 2010 - Aug 31, 2014
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Spinning disk confocal / FRAP microscope for quantitative live cell imaging
    NIH/NCRR S10RR026758May 27, 2010 - May 26, 2011
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Microtubule dynamics during cell polarity and migration
    NIH/NIGMS R01GM079139May 1, 2008 - Dec 31, 2017
    Role: Principal Investigator

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    Collapse Featured Publications
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    Collapse In The News

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
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    1. van Haren J, Wittmann T. Microtubule Plus End Dynamics - Do We Know How Microtubules Grow?: Cells boost microtubule growth by promoting distinct structural transitions at growing microtubule ends. Bioessays. 2019 Feb 07; e1800194. PMID: 30730055.
      View in: PubMed
    2. van Haren J, Charafeddine RA, Ettinger A, Wang H, Hahn KM, Wittmann T. Local control of intracellular microtubule dynamics by EB1 photodissociation. Nat Cell Biol. 2018 Mar; 20(3):252-261. PMID: 29379139.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Webb BA, Dosey AM, Wittmann T, Kollman JM, Barber DL. The glycolytic enzyme phosphofructokinase-1 assembles into filaments. J Cell Biol. 2017 08 07; 216(8):2305-2313. PMID: 28646105.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Pemble H, Kumar P, van Haren J, Wittmann T. GSK3-mediated CLASP2 phosphorylation modulates kinetochore dynamics. J Cell Sci. 2017 04 15; 130(8):1404-1412. PMID: 28232523.
      View in: PubMed
    5. Kenific CM, Wittmann T, Debnath J. Autophagy in adhesion and migration. J Cell Sci. 2016 10 15; 129(20):3685-3693. PMID: 27672021.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Ettinger A, van Haren J, Ribeiro SA, Wittmann T. Doublecortin Is Excluded from Growing Microtubule Ends and Recognizes the GDP-Microtubule Lattice. Curr Biol. 2016 06 20; 26(12):1549-1555. PMID: 27238282.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Kenific CM, Stehbens SJ, Goldsmith J, Leidal AM, Faure N, Ye J, Wittmann T, Debnath J. NBR1 enables autophagy-dependent focal adhesion turnover. J Cell Biol. 2016 Feb 29; 212(5):577-90. PMID: 26903539; PMCID: PMC4772495.
    8. Prochazka J, Prochazkova M, Du W, Spoutil F, Tureckova J, Hoch R, Shimogori T, Sedlacek R, Rubenstein JL, Wittmann T, Klein OD. Migration of Founder Epithelial Cells Drives Proper Molar Tooth Positioning and Morphogenesis. Dev Cell. 2015 Dec 21; 35(6):713-24. PMID: 26702830; PMCID: PMC4710359 [Available on 12/21/16].
    9. Lane AB, Strzelecka M, Ettinger A, Grenfell AW, Wittmann T, Heald R. Enzymatically Generated CRISPR Libraries for Genome Labeling and Screening. Dev Cell. 2015 Aug 10; 34(3):373-8. PMID: 26212133; PMCID: PMC4536113.
    10. Basu S, Sladecek S, Pemble H, Wittmann T, Slotman JA, van Cappellen W, Brenner HR, Galjart N. Acetylcholine receptor (AChR) clustering is regulated both by glycogen synthase kinase 3ß (GSK3ß)-dependent phosphorylation and the level of CLIP-associated protein 2 (CLASP2) mediating the capture of microtubule plus-ends. J Biol Chem. 2014 Oct 31; 289(44):30857-67. PMID: 25231989; PMCID: PMC4215261.
    11. Liz MA, Mar FM, Santos TE, Pimentel HI, Marques AM, Morgado MM, Vieira S, Sousa VF, Pemble H, Wittmann T, Sutherland C, Woodgett JR, Sousa MM. Neuronal deletion of GSK3ß increases microtubule speed in the growth cone and enhances axon regeneration via CRMP-2 and independently of MAP1B and CLASP2. BMC Biol. 2014 Jun 12; 12:47. PMID: 24923837; PMCID: PMC4229956.
    12. Stehbens SJ, Paszek M, Pemble H, Ettinger A, Gierke S, Wittmann T. CLASPs link focal-adhesion-associated microtubule capture to localized exocytosis and adhesion site turnover. Nat Cell Biol. 2014 Jun; 16(6):561-73. PMID: 24859005; PMCID: PMC4108447.
    13. Tran CS, Eran Y, Ruch TR, Bryant DM, Datta A, Brakeman P, Kierbel A, Wittmann T, Metzger RJ, Mostov KE, Engel JN. Host cell polarity proteins participate in innate immunity to Pseudomonas aeruginosa infection. Cell Host Microbe. 2014 May 14; 15(5):636-43. PMID: 24832456; PMCID: PMC4062193.
    14. Juang BT, Ludwig AL, Benedetti KL, Gu C, Collins K, Morales C, Asundi A, Wittmann T, L'Etoile N, Hagerman PJ. Expression of an expanded CGG-repeat RNA in a single pair of primary sensory neurons impairs olfactory adaptation in Caenorhabditis elegans. Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Sep 15; 23(18):4945-59. PMID: 24821701; PMCID: PMC4140470.
    15. Waters JC, Wittmann T. Quantitative imaging in cell biology. Preface. Methods Cell Biol. 2014; 123:xix-xx. PMID: 24974047.
      View in: PubMed
    16. Stehbens SJ, Wittmann T. Analysis of focal adhesion turnover: a quantitative live-cell imaging example. Methods Cell Biol. 2014; 123:335-46. PMID: 24974036; PMCID: PMC4198331.
    17. Waters JC, Wittmann T. Concepts in quantitative fluorescence microscopy. Methods Cell Biol. 2014; 123:1-18. PMID: 24974019.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Ettinger A, Wittmann T. Fluorescence live cell imaging. Methods Cell Biol. 2014; 123:77-94. PMID: 24974023; PMCID: PMC4198327.
    19. Moon HM, Youn YH, Pemble H, Yingling J, Wittmann T, Wynshaw-Boris A. LIS1 controls mitosis and mitotic spindle organization via the LIS1-NDEL1-dynein complex. Hum Mol Genet. 2014 Jan 15; 23(2):449-66. PMID: 24030547; PMCID: PMC3869364.
    20. Zhao X, Kumar P, Shah-Simpson S, Caradonna KL, Galjart N, Teygong C, Blader I, Wittmann T, Burleigh BA. Host microtubule plus-end binding protein CLASP1 influences sequential steps in the Trypanosoma cruzi infection process. Cell Microbiol. 2013 Apr; 15(4):571-84. PMID: 23107073; PMCID: PMC3582772.
    21. Lyle KS, Corleto JA, Wittmann T. Microtubule dynamics regulation contributes to endothelial morphogenesis. Bioarchitecture. 2012 Nov-Dec; 2(6):220-7. PMID: 23267416; PMCID: PMC3527317.
    22. Stehbens S, Wittmann T. Targeting and transport: how microtubules control focal adhesion dynamics. J Cell Biol. 2012 Aug 20; 198(4):481-9. PMID: 22908306; PMCID: PMC3514042.
    23. Kumar P, Wittmann T. +TIPs: SxIPping along microtubule ends. Trends Cell Biol. 2012 Aug; 22(8):418-28. PMID: 22748381; PMCID: PMC3408562.
    24. Gierke S, Wittmann T. EB1-recruited microtubule +TIP complexes coordinate protrusion dynamics during 3D epithelial remodeling. Curr Biol. 2012 May 08; 22(9):753-62. PMID: 22483942; PMCID: PMC3350573.
    25. Kumar P, Chimenti MS, Pemble H, Schönichen A, Thompson O, Jacobson MP, Wittmann T. Multisite phosphorylation disrupts arginine-glutamate salt bridge networks required for binding of cytoplasmic linker-associated protein 2 (CLASP2) to end-binding protein 1 (EB1). J Biol Chem. 2012 May 18; 287(21):17050-64. PMID: 22467876; PMCID: PMC3366819.
    26. Stehbens S, Pemble H, Murrow L, Wittmann T. Imaging intracellular protein dynamics by spinning disk confocal microscopy. Methods Enzymol. 2012; 504:293-313. PMID: 22264541; PMCID: PMC3495241.
    27. Haynes J, Srivastava J, Madson N, Wittmann T, Barber DL. Dynamic actin remodeling during epithelial-mesenchymal transition depends on increased moesin expression. Mol Biol Cell. 2011 Dec; 22(24):4750-64. PMID: 22031288; PMCID: PMC3237619.
    28. Elwell CA, Jiang S, Kim JH, Lee A, Wittmann T, Hanada K, Melancon P, Engel JN. Chlamydia trachomatis co-opts GBF1 and CERT to acquire host sphingomyelin for distinct roles during intracellular development. PLoS Pathog. 2011 Sep; 7(9):e1002198. PMID: 21909260; PMCID: PMC3164637.
    29. Matov A, Applegate K, Kumar P, Thoma C, Krek W, Danuser G, Wittmann T. Analysis of microtubule dynamic instability using a plus-end growth marker. Nat Methods. 2010 Sep; 7(9):761-8. PMID: 20729842; PMCID: PMC3032800.
    30. Gierke S, Kumar P, Wittmann T. Analysis of microtubule polymerization dynamics in live cells. Methods Cell Biol. 2010; 97:15-33. PMID: 20719263; PMCID: PMC3495240.
    31. Kumar P, Lyle KS, Gierke S, Matov A, Danuser G, Wittmann T. GSK3beta phosphorylation modulates CLASP-microtubule association and lamella microtubule attachment. J Cell Biol. 2009 Mar 23; 184(6):895-908. PMID: 19289791; PMCID: PMC2699158.
    32. Lyle K, Kumar P, Wittmann T. SnapShot: Microtubule regulators II. Cell. 2009 Feb 06; 136(3):566, 566.e1. PMID: 19203588; PMCID: PMC4019436.
    33. Lyle K, Kumar P, Wittmann T. SnapShot: Microtubule Regulators I. Cell. 2009 Jan 23; 136(2):380, 380.e1. PMID: 19167337; PMCID: PMC4019432.
    34. Wittmann T. EBs clip CLIPs to growing microtubule ends. J Cell Biol. 2008 Dec 29; 183(7):1183-5. PMID: 19103811; PMCID: PMC2606966.
    35. Delorme V, Machacek M, DerMardirossian C, Anderson KL, Wittmann T, Hanein D, Waterman-Storer C, Danuser G, Bokoch GM. Cofilin activity downstream of Pak1 regulates cell protrusion efficiency by organizing lamellipodium and lamella actin networks. Dev Cell. 2007 Nov; 13(5):646-62. PMID: 17981134; PMCID: PMC2170459.
    36. Kita K, Wittmann T, Näthke IS, Waterman-Storer CM. Adenomatous polyposis coli on microtubule plus ends in cell extensions can promote microtubule net growth with or without EB1. Mol Biol Cell. 2006 May; 17(5):2331-45. PMID: 16525027.
      View in: PubMed
    37. Wittmann T, Waterman-Storer CM. Spatial regulation of CLASP affinity for microtubules by Rac1 and GSK3beta in migrating epithelial cells. J Cell Biol. 2005 Jun 20; 169(6):929-39. PMID: 15955847; PMCID: PMC2171640.
    38. Wittmann T, Desai A. Microtubule cytoskeleton: a new twist at the end. Curr Biol. 2005 Feb 22; 15(4):R126-9. PMID: 15723782.
      View in: PubMed
    39. Shirasu-Hiza M, Perlman ZE, Wittmann T, Karsenti E, Mitchison TJ. Eg5 causes elongation of meiotic spindles when flux-associated microtubule depolymerization is blocked. Curr Biol. 2004 Nov 09; 14(21):1941-5. PMID: 15530396.
      View in: PubMed
    40. Brunet S, Sardon T, Zimmerman T, Wittmann T, Pepperkok R, Karsenti E, Vernos I. Characterization of the TPX2 domains involved in microtubule nucleation and spindle assembly in Xenopus egg extracts. Mol Biol Cell. 2004 Dec; 15(12):5318-28. PMID: 15385625.
      View in: PubMed
    41. Wittmann T, Bokoch GM, Waterman-Storer CM. Regulation of microtubule destabilizing activity of Op18/stathmin downstream of Rac1. J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 13; 279(7):6196-203. PMID: 14645234.
      View in: PubMed
    42. Wittmann T, Bokoch GM, Waterman-Storer CM. Regulation of leading edge microtubule and actin dynamics downstream of Rac1. J Cell Biol. 2003 Jun 09; 161(5):845-51. PMID: 12796474; PMCID: PMC2172968.
    43. Adams MC, Salmon WC, Gupton SL, Cohan CS, Wittmann T, Prigozhina N, Waterman-Storer CM. A high-speed multispectral spinning-disk confocal microscope system for fluorescent speckle microscopy of living cells. Methods. 2003 Jan; 29(1):29-41. PMID: 12543069.
      View in: PubMed
    44. Andersen SS, Wittmann T. Toward reconstitution of in vivo microtubule dynamics in vitro. Bioessays. 2002 Apr; 24(4):305-7. PMID: 11948616.
      View in: PubMed
    45. Wittmann T, Waterman-Storer CM. Cell motility: can Rho GTPases and microtubules point the way? J Cell Sci. 2001 Nov; 114(Pt 21):3795-803. PMID: 11719546.
      View in: PubMed
    46. Wittmann T, Hyman A, Desai A. The spindle: a dynamic assembly of microtubules and motors. Nat Cell Biol. 2001 Jan; 3(1):E28-34. PMID: 11146647.
      View in: PubMed
    47. Wittmann T, Wilm M, Karsenti E, Vernos I. TPX2, A novel xenopus MAP involved in spindle pole organization. J Cell Biol. 2000 Jun 26; 149(7):1405-18. PMID: 10871281; PMCID: PMC2175143.
    48. Ahmad FJ, Hughey J, Wittmann T, Hyman A, Greaser M, Baas PW. Motor proteins regulate force interactions between microtubules and microfilaments in the axon. Nat Cell Biol. 2000 May; 2(5):276-80. PMID: 10806478.
      View in: PubMed
    49. Wittmann T, Hyman T. Recombinant p50/dynamitin as a tool to examine the role of dynactin in intracellular processes. Methods Cell Biol. 1999; 61:137-43. PMID: 9891312.
      View in: PubMed
    50. Wittmann T, Boleti H, Antony C, Karsenti E, Vernos I. Localization of the kinesin-like protein Xklp2 to spindle poles requires a leucine zipper, a microtubule-associated protein, and dynein. J Cell Biol. 1998 Nov 02; 143(3):673-85. PMID: 9813089; PMCID: PMC2148133.
    51. Wittmann T, Wahle E. Purification and characterization of full-length mammalian poly(A) polymerase. Biochim Biophys Acta. 1997 Feb 28; 1350(3):293-305. PMID: 9061026.
      View in: PubMed