First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Journal of Cell Science, helping early-career researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. Yasmin Kadry is the first author on ‘Kindlin-2 interacts with a highly-conserved surface of ILK to regulate focal adhesion localization and cell spreading’, published in Journal of Cell Science. Yasmin is a PhD student in the lab of David Calderwood at Yale University, New Haven, CT, investigating the roles of kindlins and integrin-linked kinase (ILK) in integrin-related functions.
How would you explain the main findings of your paper in lay terms?
Integrins are receptors on the surface of cells that sense and adhere to the environment around them. An important component of how integrins are able to perform this function involves interactions with other proteins on the inside of the cell, such as kindlin. We know that kindlin is important for integrin-related functions, but how exactly kindlin is performing its job is unclear. We think that the interaction between kindlin and ILK is important in this process, especially because the interaction is conserved in many different species. We identified the binding site for kindlin-2 on ILK by looking for these conserved sites on ILK. We found that mutants of ILK that are impaired in kindlin-2 binding impact on the ability of ILK to localize to integrin clusters and impact cell spreading, solidifying the importance of the interaction in these integrin-related functions.
Were there any specific challenges associated with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest challenges I faced was during the start of this project, when I encountered technical issues with overexpressing GFP-tagged ILK (GFP-ILK) in cells to do pulldown assays from the lysates. After much troubleshooting and very helpful discussions with my lab mates, I was able to optimize the experiment by co-expressing α-parvin, and the project took off from there.
When doing the research, did you have a particular result or ‘eureka’ moment that has stuck with you?
“After doing a lot of biochemical work…, it was very thrilling and rewarding to see the effect on localization … in live cells!”
My ‘eureka’ moment came when I first examined the localization of the GFP-ILK mutants that I had generated by using TIRF microscopy in live cells. The mutants that are impaired in kindlin-2 binding exhibited a very profound defect in focal adhesion localization. After doing a lot of biochemical work to validate the binding site, it was very thrilling and rewarding to see the effect on localization in the mutations I made had in live cells!
Why did you choose Journal of Cell Science for your paper?
Our lab frequently publishes in the Journal of Cell Science due to its strong reputation in the cellular and biochemical sciences. Publishing in Journal of Cell Science is the best way to reach broad and diverse audiences.
Have you had any significant mentors who have helped you beyond supervision in the lab?
I have been very fortunate to be a student in a lab with a very supportive PI and lab mates. My PI, Dr David Calderwood, has provided continued guidance and support throughout my graduate career, and has taught me how to think critically about science and to overcome challenges. In addition, I am very grateful to the postdocs in our lab: Clotilde Huet-Calderwood, Bertrand Simon and Xiaowen Sun. Each of them has a unique background and training expertise, and has been very willing to share their knowledge and teach me new scientific skills; their insights and advice have been invaluable.
“It was this sense of curiosity that inspired me to pursue a PhD in the biological sciences.”
What motivated you to pursue a career in science, and what have been the most interesting moments on the path that led you to where you are now?
I studied bioengineering in college, which gave me a great foundation in designing biological systems. However, I always found myself wanting to know more about how specifically these systems work. It was this sense of curiosity that inspired me to pursue a PhD in the biological sciences.
What's next for you?
I am wrapping up my final year of my PhD studies, and hope to continue my scientific training through postdoctoral studies afterwards.
Tell us something interesting about yourself that wouldn't be on your CV
My favorite type of cuisine is Ethiopian food. I spent several months in Ethiopia while I was a college student, and have loved it ever since!
Yasmin Kadry's contact details: Department of Pharmacology, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.