Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab

Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science

We have now moved to the Single Molecule Science unit at the University of New South Wales, Sydney as an EMBL Australia Partner Group! Watch this space for the new website.

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Welcome to the Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab!

A part of the Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Cytomotors Lab is led by Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan. The interest of the lab lies in the study of the cytoskeleton and associated proteins during various cellular processes, using a combination of high time-resolution live cell microscopy and general cell and molecular biology techniques. More


Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan

Principal Investigator
EMBl Australia Group Leader (CV)

Vaishnavi is in-charge of making sure that everybody in the lab has everything necessary to carry out their research and in general, making sure they are happy! When she is not (trying to) carry out experiments, teaching or writing, she enjoys binge-watching TV shows, playing tennis and the piano.

Nireekshit Addanki Tirumala

B.E. (Chem. Engg.), VNIT Nagpur

PhD student

Nireekshit is the dynein aficionado, single-molecule imaging expert and protector of the lab’s TIRF microscope. Besides torturing cells with high-power lasers, he enjoys biking, playing tennis and wildlife photography.

Mitali Shah

B.Tech. (Biotech.), Vellore Institute of Technology

PhD student

Mitali is the go-to person in the lab for everything neurodegeneration. On a usual day, she teases apart interactions between microtubules and mitochondria, but moonlights as a dance maestro and cultural icon of the lab.

Harsh Kumar

B.S., M.S. (Physical Sci.), IISER Bhopal

PhD student (jointly with Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah)

Harsh is the Physics guy who turned to the dark side of Cell Biology. He has readily taken on the complex question of how pore-forming toxins (PFTs) assemble and how cells infected with PFTs respond to the assault. The first rule of asking Harsh questions about his free time is to not ask questions about what he does in his free time.

Joel P. Joseph

M.Tech. (Genetic Engg.), SRM University, Chennai
B.Tech. (Biotech.), Sir MVIT, Bangalore

PhD student

Joel is the lab's genetic engineering expert who hopes to understand how mitochondrial function is affected by perturbation of the cytoskeleton. Joel dons many hats - an avid scicommer (read more here), singer and guitarist!

Leeba Ann Chacko

B. E. (Biotech.), M. S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology

Junior Research Fellow

Leeba is a pombe-phile who is involved in several intricate projects involving their microtubules, mitochondria, actin and mitosis. Leeba is an aspiring science communicator and has several refreshing ideas that could revolutionize the field. When not in the lab, she enjoys hiking and watching TV shows (her favourite used to be GoT before the last season was ruined by bad writing).

Priyadarshini G

B. Sc. (CBZ), Maharani Lakshmi Ammani College

Lab Manager

Priya holds the fort in the lab. She effortlessly navigates the complex world of Finance and Accounts and Centre for Schemes and Sponsored Projects (yes, these places do exist) and basically keeps everything running smoothly in the lab.


Lauren Raasch (SN Bose Summer Scholar, June 2019-August 2019) Current position: M.S. (Bacteriology), University of Wisconsin Madison, USA (ongoing)
Ananya Rajagopal (BEST Summer Trainee, May 2019-July 2019) Current position: B.Tech. (Biotech.), PES Univertsity, Bangalore (ongoing)
Anand Sankar (Project Assistant, Aug 2018-Sept 2018)
Reshma Raj (Project Assistant, Aug 2017-Aug 2018)
Elsa Barron (SN Bose Summer Scholar, Jun 2018-Aug 2018) Current position: (Bio. Sci.), University of Notre Dame, USA (ongoing)
Aditya Jeevannavar (BEST Summer Trainee, May 2018-July 2018) Current position: B.S./M.S. (Bio. Sci.), IIT Madras (ongoing)
Kritika Mehta (Junior Research Fellow, July 2017-July 2018) Current position: Ph.D. student, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Rishabh Singh (Research Assistant, July 2017-June 2018) Current position: M.Tech. Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
Keval Pandya (BEST+ Summer Intern, May 2017-May 2017) Current position: M.B.B.S., CMC Vellore (Ongoing)
Manish Ayushman (BEST Summer Intern, May 2017-July 2017) Current position: B.E. Chemical Engineering, IIT, Kharagpur (Ongoing)
Stephen Sukumar (Research Assistant, July 2016-July 2017) Current position: PhD student at Justus Liebig Universitat, Geissen, Germany
Ashwini Ravi (Project Assistant July 2015-July 2017) Current position: PhD student at Bangalore University
Parth Sharma (MBBS Summer Training Student, May 2017) Current position: M.B.B.S, Christian Medical College, Vellore (Ongoing)
Dr. Tirthankar Sengupta (Research Associate, Sept 2016 - Nov 2017)
Amoolya Girish (Research Intern, part-time, Sept 2016-Dec 2016)
Jerrin Mathew Thankachan (Junior Research Fellow, July 2015-June 2016) Current position: PhD student at the Subba Rao Lab, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Milind Singh (BEST Summer Intern, May 2015-June 2015) Current position: PhD student at Yale University



Cells employ tiny machines called ‘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 polymers inside the cell termed ‘microtubules’. Microtubules function as tracks for motor movement, and alternately as ropes which motor proteins pull on.

Several cellular processes require a coordination of motor proteins and microtubules. Scientists have gained a wealth of information by replicating cellular processes involving motors and microtubules outside living cell, in what are called ‘in vitro’ experiments. 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 both contexts of health and disease (including neurodegeneration and cancers), where they go rogue.


The Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab (Cytomotors Lab) led by Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan investigates 2 main themes: regulation of the activity of motor proteins, and the role of microtubules in cellular organization and organelle dynamics.

The motor protein cytoplasmic dynein-1 (called dynein henceforth) transports several different cargoes along microtubules towards the cell center. Recent research in vitro has demonstrated that dynein is activated only when it binds to another regulatory protein termed dynactin, and an adaptor protein that aids dynein binding to a specific kind of cargo molecule. How do these three molecules come together in living cells? In another process termed ‘cargo sorting’ several different kinds of motor proteins, including dynein, participate in determining the fate of internalized cargo. How do motor proteins dictate the sorting protocol? We approach both these questions by developing and employing techniques for visualization and tracking of single of fluorescent motor proteins in living cells.

Organization of cellular contents is brought about in part by motor proteins and microtubules. Mitochondria are membrane-bound structures within cells that are required for energy production. Mitochondrial form continuously changes in living cells via fission and fusion events. An equilibrium between fission and fusion is required for proper mitochondrial function. In neurodegenerative disease states, mitochondria appear predominantly fragmented and show dysfunction. Preliminary studies have indicated a role for microtubules and motor proteins in maintaining this equilibrium. What is the role of microtubules in maintenance of mitochondrial dynamics? The Cytomotors lab explores this question using high-resolution fluorescence microscopy of microtubules and mitochondria in live cells to visualize dynamic interactions between the two.




Shah, Chacko, Joseph and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Mitochondrial dynamics, positioning and function mediated by cytoskeletal interactions', Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences (under review)

Tirumala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Role of dynactin in the intracellular localization and activation of cytoplasmic dynein', Biochemistry (2020) [pdf]


Chacko, Mehta and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Cortical tethering of mitochondria by the anchor protein Mcp5 enables uniparental inheritance', Journal of Cell Biology (2019) [pdf]

Mehta, Chacko, Chug, Jhunjhunwala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Association of mitochondria with microtubules inhibits mitochondrial fission by precluding assembly of the fission protein Dnm1', Journal of Biological Chemistry (2019) [pdf]

Chacko and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Quantification of mitochondrial dynamics in fission yeast', Bio-protocol (2019) [pdf]


Thankachan, Nuthalapati, Tirumala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Fission Yeast Myosin I Facilitates PI(4,5)P 2-mediated Anchoring of Cytoplasmic Dynein to the Cortex', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017) [pdf]

Meka, Chacko, Ravi, Chatterjee and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Role of Microtubules in Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells on 3D Nanofibrous Scaffolds', ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering (2017) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan*, 'Activation of the motor protein upon attachment: Anchors weigh in on cytoplasmic dynein regulation', Bioessays (2016) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan* and Tolic, 'Single Molecule Imaging of Cytosplamic Dynein in vivo', Methods in Cell Biology 125 (2015) [pdf]


Krull, Steinborn, Ananthanarayanan, Ramunno-Johnson, Petersohn, Tolic-Norrelykke*, 'A divide-and-conquer strategy for the maximum likelihood localization of low intensity objects', Optics Express 22(1), 210-228 (2014) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan, Schattat, Vogel, Krull, Pavin*, Tolic-Norrelykke*, 'Dynein motion switches from diffusive to directed upon cortical anchoring', Cell 153: 1526-1536 (2013) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan* and Thies*, 'Biocoder: A programming language for standardizing and automating Biology protocols', Journal of Biological Engineering 4:13 (2010) [pdf]

*Corresponding author(s)

Popular Science/Outreach


RI Mazumdar Young Investigator Award (2019-2020)
SERB Women Excellence Award (2019-2020)
EMBO Young Investigator Award (2019-2020)
Wellcome Trust/DBT-India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship (2019-2020)
SERB Early Career Research Award (2016-2019)
DBT Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award (2015-2018)
DST INSPIRE Faculty Award (2014-2018)
IISc Startup Grant

Open Positions

We do not have any open positions at the moment. Please check this space later.


Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan
EMBL Australia Group Leader
Single Molecule Science
University of New South Wales
vaish @