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. Ana Popović is first author on ‘ Myosin-X recruits lamellipodin to filopodia tips’, published in JCS. Ana is a PhD student in the lab of Guillaume Jacquemet at Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland, investigating cell migration with a focus on cellular protrusions called filopodia.

Ana Popović

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

Cells migrate in our body to help us grow and heal. During migration, cells use little finger-like parts called filopodia that help them sense their surroundings. The backbone of filopodia is composed of bundled filaments of a protein called actin. Myosin-X (MYO10) is a motor protein that can walk on these actin filaments and accumulate in the filopodia tips. MYO10 contains a special region through which it is able to bind cargoes and transport them to the tips of filopodia. In this paper, we identified lamellipodin (RAPH1) as a MYO10 cargo protein and described how they bind to each other. We found that RAPH1 is important for the formation of filopodia and for keeping filopodia stable. Overall, we show that MYO10 carries RAPH1 to the tips of filopodia, which in turn helps with filopodia stability. This will help us to understand how cells interact with their environment during cell migration.

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

Expression and purification of the GST-tagged RAPH1 construct was the most challenging experiment. It required a lot of optimization, as many things can go wrong, and I think they all did. But after a lot of trial and error, we finally managed to find optimal conditions and to purify it. Apart from that, there were everyday battles with little lab gremlins.

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

A particular ‘eureka’ moment that stuck with me was during my previous internship when we were trying to dissolve a plant extract. We tried dissolving it in DMSO, in ethanol, in every solvent that we could think of, but the one that we did not think of was actually water. That taught me that more often than not – the simplest solution is the right solution and that it is often overlooked.

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

The Journal of Cell Science fits into our research well and we were interested in publishing our paper in the special issue ‘Cell Biology of Motors’. I really like papers published in this journal and I love that it is a part of a ‘not-for-profit’ organization. Also, our institution, the University of Turku, has a Read & Publish agreement, so we do not have to cover the publishing fees ourselves!

Cell with filopodia labelled for actin.

Cell with filopodia labelled for actin.

Have you had any significant mentors who have helped you beyond supervision in the lab? How was their guidance special?

I consider myself extremely fortunate to be a part of my current lab. We have great cooperation in our team, making it simple to share ideas and ask for advice. My supervisor, Guillaume Jacquemet, is a brilliant man who has been a terrific mentor, helping with our research and teaching us how to be scientists. I am also very thankful for the close collaboration with the Ivaska lab and assistance from their lab members. I am extremely grateful to my fiancé for helping me to look on the bright side of life and for his incredible patience in listening to me babble about science.

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?

As a child, I had a book of small scientific experiments that you could do at home. I was mesmerized by how all of those magical things had underlying explanations, which were often even more mesmerizing. My parents always encouraged me to pursue knowledge – my father loves learning and has the broadest knowledge I have ever seen, and my mother is also a scientist and would be so excited about new discoveries or an amazing new paper that she read. Later in life, I was surrounded by the right people at the right time, people who were passionate about science, from my high school biology professor, my master thesis mentors and now, my PhD supervisor.

Who are your role models in science? Why?

I am inspired by innovative thinkers, people who find some new and quirky way of solving a problem. I love people who are excited about their work, as I consider the best way to communicate science is to be passionate about it.

What's next for you?

For now, continuing my PhD studies. Afterward, I would like to do a post-doc and keep doing amazing science!

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

I love football and I am a two-time Fantasy Premier League winner of our friends' group (I wish I could put that on my CV!).

Ana Popović’s contact details: Åbo Akademi University, 20520 Turku, Finland.

E-mail: ana.popovic@abo.fi

Popović
,
A.
,
Miihkinen
,
M.
,
Ghimire
,
S.
,
Saup
,
R.
,
Grönloh
,
M. L. B.
,
Ball
,
N. J.
,
Goult
,
B. T.
,
Ivaska
,
J.
and
Jacquemet
,
G.
(
2023
).
Myosin-X recruits lamellipodin to filopodia tips
.
J. Cell Sci.
136
,
jcs260574
.