Kassandra Ori-Mckenney, Ph.D.

 Kassandra  Ori-Mckenney, Ph.D.


  • Assistant Professor
  • Molecular and Cellular Biology

Regulation of the cytoskeleton by kinases in development and disease

Research Summary

The goal of my lab is to understand the complex kinase pathways that regulate the cytoskeleton during neuronal development and maintenance. When perturbed, a number of these kinase pathways lead to neurodevelopmental or neurodegenerative disease, as is the case with Dyrk1a/MNB, a primary focus of my lab. Dyrk1a is a Down Syndrome critical kinase, and other mutations within the kinase have been linked to the development of Autism Spectrum Disorder, microcephaly, and neurogenerative disease. Our lab uses genomic engineering combined with live imaging techniques within the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster, to understand the role of kinases in organizing the microtubule cytoskeleton in vivo. In addition, we use a range of chemical genetic and biochemical techniques to dissect the pathway of these kinases and their molecular substrates in vitro. We are also beginning to perform behavioral assays in order to understand how changes in the cytoskeleton of a neuron contribute to neuronal function. Understanding how a kinase contributes to neuronal architecture and activity on a molecular level will provide valuable insights into the cause and progression of a number of neurological disorders.

Selected Publications

Ori-McKenney KM, McKenney RJ, Younger S, Jan LY, Vale RD, Jan YN. Phosphorylation of β-Tubulin by the Down Syndrome Kinase, Minibrain/DYRK1a, Regulates Microtubule Dynamics and Dendrite Morphogenesis. Neuron, 90, 551-63 (2016).

Ori-McKenney KM, Jan LY, Jan YN. Golgi outposts shape dendrite morphology by functioning as sites of acentrosomal microtubule nucleation in neurons. Neuron76, 921-30 (2012).

Ori-McKenney KM*, Xu, J*, Gross SP, Vallee RB. A neurodegenerative mutation reveals novel features of cytoplasmic dynein motor regulation. Nature Cell Biology, 12, 1228-34 (2010). (*Co-first authors).


BMCDB Graduate Group

Neuroscience Graduate Group