Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute | About RPI | Academics | Research | Student Life | Admissions | News & Events
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Department of Biological Sciences
Biology Faculty
* * * *
Department of Biological Sciences
1W14 Jonsson-Rowland Science Center
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 Eighth Street
Troy, NY 12180-3590

Phone: (518) 276-6446
Fax: (518) 276-2344

* * *
Biology Home Undergraduate Graduate Faculty Research News and Events Contacts
Lee Ligon

Associate Professor of Biology

Education and Training

B.A. Wesleyan University
Letters and Biopsychology

Ph.D. University of Virginia

Postdoctoral Training, University of Pennsylvania


Tel: (518) 276-3458

Office: Center for Biotechnology

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180

Research Interests

Cytoskeleton organization and dynamics in development and in neuronal, cancer, and stem cells using live cell imaging and biochemistry.

In the Ligon lab, we are interested in how the shape and structure of cells affects their function.  Some cells, such as those of the nervous system, have elaborate three-dimensional shapes that are essential to their specialized activities.  We study the cytoskeleton, a complex network of protein polymers that underlies cell structure.  We use a combination of live-cell imaging and other cell biological, biochemical and molecular techniques to examine cytoskeletal organization and dynamics in the context of the living cell.

Most of our research is currently focused on the microtubule cytoskeleton.  Microtubules have several functions in the cell: they are mechanical and structural elements; they serve as tracks for long-distance movements of organelles and other cargoes; and they can play a direct role in biochemical signaling cascades. We are particularly interested in how the cell regulates the balance between adhesion and motility and the role of the cytoskeleton in this process. The regulation of this balance is critical during development, but is also important for proper functioning in the mature organism. Disregulation of this balance can lead to tumorigenesis and metastasis, and the work in our lab addresses fundamental questions in cell biology, development and the biology of cancer.

Current Projects:

  • Examining the role of heterotypic cell-cell adhesion between epithelial cells and stromal fibroblasts in the progression of metastasis.
  • Investigating the re-organization of the microtubule cytoskeleton during the establishment of epithelial polarity.
  • Determining the role of tubulin post-translational modifications in microtubule function.

Selected Publications

J. McLane, C. Rivet, M. Apostolopoulou, R. Gilbert and L.A. Ligon, “A fibrous model of the tumor stromal microenvironment promotes mesenchymal morphology but not EMT in epithelial cells,” Submitted, 2012.

M. Apostolopoulou and L.A. Ligon, “Cadherin-23 Mediates Heterotypic Cell-Cell Adhesion Between Tumor Cells and Stromal Fibroblasts,” PLoS ONE 7(3): e33289, 2012.

G.B. Quinones, B.A. Danowski, A. Devaraj, V. Singh and L.A. Ligon, “The Post-Translational Modification of Tubulin Undergoes a Switch from Detyrosination to Acetylation as Epithelial Cells Become Polarized,” Molecular Biology of the Cell 22(7) 1045-57, 2011.

R. Dixit, J.R. Levy, M. Tokito, L.A. Ligon and E.L. Holzbaur, “Regulation of Dynactin Through the Differential Expression of p150Glued Isoforms,” Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2008.

L.A. Ligon and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “Target and Delivery: Dynein Tethers Microtubules at Cell-Cell Contacts to Facilitate Adherens Junction Assembly,” Traffic 8(7) 808-19, 2007.

J. Combs, S.J. Kim, S. Tan, L.A. Ligon, E.L. Holzbaur, J. Kuhn, M. Poenie. “Recruitment of dynein to the Jurkat immunological synapse.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 103(40) 14883-8, 2006.

L.A. Ligon, S. Shelly, M. Tokito, and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “Microtubule binding proteins CLIP-170, EB1, and p150Glued form distinct plus-end complexes,” FEBS Letters 580(5) 1327-32, 2006.

L.A. Ligon, B.H. LaMonte, K.E. Wallace, N. Weber, R.G. Kalb and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “Mutant superoxide dismutase disrupts cytoplasmic dynein in motor neurons,” NeuroReport 16(6):533-536, 2005.

L.A. Ligon, M. Tokito, J.M. Finklestein, F.E. Grossman, and E.L.F. Holzbaur,  “A Direct Interaction Between Cytoplasmic Dynein and Kinesin I May Coordinate Motor Activity,” Journal of Biological Chemistry 279(18) 19201-8, 2004.

L.A. Ligon, S. Shelly, M. Tokito, and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “The Microtubule Plus-End Proteins EB1 and Dynactin Have Differential Effects on Microtubule Polymerization,” Molecular Biology of the Cell 14 (4) 1405-17, 2003.

S. Karki, L.A. Ligon, J. DeSantis, M. Tokito, and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “PLAC-24: A Novel Protein that Binds to Dynein and Localizes to Cell-Cell Contacts,” Molecular Biology of the Cell 13(5) 1722-34, 2002.

L.A. Ligon, S. Karki, M. Tokito, and E.L.F. Holzbaur, “Dynein Binds to β-Catenin and May Tether Microtubules at Adherens Junctions,” Nature Cell Biology 3(10) 913-917, 2001.

L.A. Ligon and O. Steward,  “Movement of Mitochondria in the Axons and Dendrites of Cultured Hippocampal Neurons,” Journal of Comparative Neurology 427(3) 340-350, 2000.

L.A. Ligon and O. Steward,  “Role of Microtubules and Actin Filaments in the Movement of Mitochondria in the Axons and Dendrites of Cultured Hippocampal Neurons,” Journal of Comparative Neurology 427(3) 351-361, 2000.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Department of Biological Sciences