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. Xiumei He is co-first author on ‘ GTPBP8 modulates mitochondrial fission through a Drp1-dependent process’, published in JCS. Xiumei is a student in the lab of Hongxia Zhao at the School of Life Sciences, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin, China, investigating how GTPBP8 affects mitochondrial dynamics.

Xiumei He

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

We found that the mitochondrial matrix-localised protein GTPBP8 is involved in the mitochondrial fission process, in which one mitochondrion splits into two. Cells with depleted GTPBP8 levels exhibit mitochondrial hyperfusion (as a consequence of reduced fission), whereas cells with enhanced GTPBP8 levels exhibit a very fragmented mitochondrial morphology as a result of increased fission. In this study, we showed that GTPBP8 does not act independently to promote mitochondrial fission, but rather depends on another fission protein called Drp1. Our current understanding of GTPBP8's upstream role in mitochondrial fission involves its modulation of Drp1 phosphorylation through cell signalling pathways.

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

I think the biggest challenge was the time and effort it took to review the literature and collect information about the proteins we were interested in. Exploring a scientific problem is not always smooth sailing, and only when enough information is collected can an accurate judgment be made about the experimental results. Only a sufficient reserve of knowledge can guide us whenever we fail. After repeated experimental failures and more time spent gathering information to help interpret these results, I was finally able to elucidate that GTPBP8 regulates mitochondrial fission through a Drp1-dependent process.

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

When we downregulated GTPBP8, we found that the morphology of mitochondria changed dramatically, becoming very elongated and tubular. In contrast, when we upregulated GTPBP8, we observed mitochondrial fragmentation. This leads us to believe that GTPBP8 serves as a key factor involved in the mitochondrial fission process. But what was the specific regulatory mechanism involved? This question piqued our interest.

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

Our choice of Journal of Cell Science was the result of careful consideration because JCS covers all aspects of cell biology and accepts articles with excellent research. In addition, JCS has a relatively high degree of recognition in the field of biology and has always been our first-choice journal. We submitted the article to JCS without hesitation after we finished writing it.

Cells with enhanced GTPBP8 levels present with fragmented mitochondria.

Cells with enhanced GTPBP8 levels present with fragmented mitochondria.

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

My master's degree supervisor, Dr Liang Wang, is an all-around excellent supervisor. She not only provides me with guidance in solving scientific problems in the laboratory, but also provides me with help in my daily life. I thank her for the hard work she put into me, which allowed me to grow academically and has given me a deep understanding of the scientific world.

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?

At first in life I wanted to be a doctor, but then I discovered that the basis of medical knowledge is biology. I think it's very cool that when someone else is talking about a certain disease that I don't know much about, I am able learn about it and can understand it very well by looking at the biological literature. Moreover, it is very interesting to do these biological experiments. When you solve a problem that has been bothering you for a long time, you have a great sense of accomplishment.

Who are your role models in science? Why?

My role models are the people who are engaged in scientific research. Their attitude and determination to explore scientific issues is admirable. People who engage in scientific research are very rational people who do things logically and solve scientific problems in a coherent manner.

What's next for you?

I love science and will continue my education in academia. In the future, I will study for a PhD through my own efforts, serve as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory and finally become a PI.

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

I like to plant flowers and plants. Watching them grow vigorously makes me feel relaxed and happy, and I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Xiumei He’s contact details: School of Life Sciences, Guangxi Normal University, Guilin 541004, China.

E-mail: [email protected]

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et al. 
(
2024
).
GTPBP8 modulates mitochondrial fission through a Drp1-dependent process
.
J. Cell Sci.
137
,
jcs261612
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