First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Journal of Cell Science, helping researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. James Glover is co-first author on ‘ UMAD1 contributes to ESCRT-III dynamic subunit turnover during cytokinetic abscission’, published in JCS. James is a PhD student in the lab of Juan Martin-Serrano at the Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London, UK, investigating cell division using advanced microscopy techniques.

James Glover

How would you explain the main findings of your paper in lay terms?

During the final stages of cell division, a thin intercellular bridge called the midbody connects emerging daughter cells. This bridge needs to be cut to separate the cells and complete the division process. To accomplish this, a family of proteins called the endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRTs) are recruited to the midbody. ESCRTs constrict membranes and facilitate the severing of the intercellular bridge in a process known as cytokinetic abscission. In our study, we identified that a protein called UMAD1 is a subunit of ESCRT-I, one of the early acting components of the abscission machinery. Using fluorescent labelling, we saw that UMAD1 and TSG101 (another ESCRT-I subunit) were simultaneously recruited to the midbody. In cells that lacked UMAD1, we noticed slight delays in the time taken for cell division to occur. We hypothesised that these cells might be compensating for the absence of UMAD1. To investigate this, we reduced the levels of ALIX, a protein involved in a parallel abscission pathway. We observed synergistic effects of loss of both UMAD1 and ALIX in these cells, as they took longer to divide, showed higher rates of multinucleation (having multiple nuclei in a single cell) and exhibited reduced exchange of ESCRT-III required for abscission.

Were there any specific challenges associated with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?

Performing research is a lot like playing a video game. You start with a question that you set out to answer, just like embarking on the main storyline in a game. As you progress with your investigation, your findings reveal other exciting questions that you would like to answer, much like stumbling upon side quests. However, unlike video games, pursing a PhD is time limited, so it is often not possible to pursue all the exciting side quests (or tangents, as PIs might call them) within your given timeframe. As this investigation progressed, we chose to follow the exciting avenues that were intimately related to our research question, to maintain our focus on completing the story. However, I do hope to eventually revisit some of those side quests!

When doing the research, did you have a particular result or ‘eureka’ moment that has stuck with you?

We hypothesised that there would be a reduction in ESCRT-III recruitment to the midbody in UMAD1-knockout cells partially depleted of ALIX; however, this was not observed. As a result, we shifted our focus to the dynamics of ESCRT-III and thought extensively about how we could best investigate this further. I then performed a series of FRAP experiments, which revealed that in these cells there was a reduced turnover of ESCRT-III at the midbody relative to that in wild-type cells, consistent with our earlier observations. These were the final experiments I performed before we started writing the paper, and they answered our remaining question, providing a natural end to the story.

Why did you choose Journal of Cell Science for your paper?

We regularly see cutting-edge research being published in JCS from within and beyond our field, so it seemed the perfect home for our paper.

ESCRT-III is recruited to the midbody during cytokinesis. HeLa cells expressing CHMP4B–L–GFP (cyan) and incubated with SiR-tubulin (magenta). Scale bar: 10 µm.

ESCRT-III is recruited to the midbody during cytokinesis. HeLa cells expressing CHMP4B–L–GFP (cyan) and incubated with SiR-tubulin (magenta). Scale bar: 10 µm.

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 have always liked problems that you have to actively engage with to solve; those that a quick Google search or a ChatGPT prompt can't help with. Doing research provides the privilege of being able to investigate questions that no one knows the answer to, and this seemed a good fit for me. As I have progressed through my doctoral studies, I'm now the only student in my lab, which has been an interesting challenge and has led me to become a more independent researcher.

Who are your role models in science? Why?

Every scientist who has overcome adversity. One's upbringing and experiences should not preclude doing good science, but instead should be championed.

What's next for you?

Throughout my doctoral studies I have had the opportunity to work on multiple projects and collaborate with other labs to answer distinct research questions. Before writing up my PhD thesis, I hope to publish another of these exciting stories.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that wouldn't be on your CV

Whenever I'm not glued to a microscope watching cells divide, I'm likely out watching football. Although I've since stopped playing myself, I do still hold a very positive record against friends on FIFA.

James Glover's contact details: Department of Infectious Diseases, King's College London, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, London SE1 9RT, UK.

E-mail: james.glover@kcl.ac.uk; Twitter: @GloverJamesy

Glover
,
J.
,
Scourfield
,
E. J.
,
Ventimiglia
,
L. N.
,
Yang
,
X.
,
Lynham
,
S.
,
Agromayor
,
M.
and
Martin-Serrano
,
J.
(
2023
).
UMAD1 contributes to ESCRT-III dynamic subunit turnover during cytokinetic abscission
.
J. Cell Sci.
136
,
jcs261097
.