Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab

Centre for BioSystems Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Science

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Welcome to the Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab!

A part of the Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, the Cytomotors Lab is led by Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan. The interest of the lab lies in the study of the cytoskeleton and associated proteins during various cellular processes, using a combination of high time-resolution live cell microscopy and general cell and molecular biology techniques. More


Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan

Principal Investigator
Wellcome Trust/DBT-India Alliance Intermediate Fellow,
EMBO Young Investigator (CV)

Vaishnavi is in-charge of making sure that everybody in the lab has everything necessary to carry out their research and in general, making sure they are happy! When she is not (trying to) carry out experiments, teaching or writing, she enjoys binge-watching TV shows, playing tennis and the piano.

Nireekshit Addanki Tirumala

B.E. (Chem. Engg.), VNIT Nagpur

PhD student

Nireekshit is the dynein aficionado, single-molecule imaging expert and protector of the lab’s TIRF microscope. Besides torturing cells with high-power lasers, he enjoys biking, playing tennis and wildlife photography.

Mitali Shah

B.Tech. (Biotech.), Vellore Institute of Technology

PhD student

Mitali is the go-to person in the lab for everything neurodegeneration. On a usual day, she teases apart interactions between microtubules and mitochondria, but moonlights as a dance maestro and cultural icon of the lab.

Harsh Kumar

B.S., M.S. (Physical Sci.), IISER Bhopal

PhD student (jointly with Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah)

Harsh is the Physics guy who turned to the dark side of Cell Biology. He has readily taken on the complex question of how pore-forming toxins (PFTs) assemble and how cells infected with PFTs respond to the assault. The first rule of asking Harsh questions about his free time is to not ask questions about what he does in his free time.

Leeba Ann Chacko

B. E. (Biotech.), M. S. Ramaiah Institute of Technology

Junior Research Fellow

Leeba is a pombe-phile who is involved in several intricate projects involving their microtubules, mitochondria, actin and mitosis. Leeba is an aspiring science communicator and has several refreshing ideas that could revolutionize the field. When not in the lab, she enjoys hiking and watching TV shows (her favourite used to be GoT before the last season was ruined by bad writing).

Priyadarshini G

B. Sc. (CBZ), Maharani Lakshmi Ammani College

Lab Manager

Priya holds the fort in the lab. She effortlessly navigates the complex world of Finance and Accounts and Centre for Schemes and Sponsored Projects (yes, these places do exist) and basically keeps everything running smoothly in the lab.


Lauren Raasch (SN Bose Summer Scholar, June 2019-August 2019) Current position: M.S. (Bacteriology), University of Wisconsin Madison, USA (ongoing)
Ananya Rajagopal (BEST Summer Trainee, May 2019-July 2019) Current position: B.Tech. (Biotech.), PES Univertsity, Bangalore (ongoing)
Anand Sankar (Project Assistant, Aug 2018-Sept 2018)
Reshma Raj (Project Assistant, Aug 2017-Aug 2018)
Elsa Barron (SN Bose Summer Scholar, Jun 2018-Aug 2018) Current position: (Bio. Sci.), University of Notre Dame, USA (ongoing)
Aditya Jeevannavar (BEST Summer Trainee, May 2018-July 2018) Current position: B.S./M.S. (Bio. Sci.), IIT Madras (ongoing)
Kritika Mehta (Junior Research Fellow, July 2017-July 2018) Current position: Ph.D. student, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Rishabh Singh (Research Assistant, July 2017-June 2018) Current position: M.Tech. Biomedical Engineering, Boston University
Keval Pandya (BEST+ Summer Intern, May 2017-May 2017) Current position: M.B.B.S., CMC Vellore (Ongoing)
Manish Ayushman (BEST Summer Intern, May 2017-July 2017) Current position: B.E. Chemical Engineering, IIT, Kharagpur (Ongoing)
Stephen Sukumar (Research Assistant, July 2016-July 2017) Current position: PhD student at Justus Liebig Universitat, Geissen, Germany
Ashwini Ravi (Project Assistant July 2015-July 2017) Current position: PhD student at Bangalore University
Parth Sharma (MBBS Summer Training Student, May 2017) Current position: M.B.B.S, Christian Medical College, Vellore (Ongoing)
Dr. Tirthankar Sengupta (Research Associate, Sept 2016 - Nov 2017)
Amoolya Girish (Research Intern, part-time, Sept 2016-Dec 2016)
Jerrin Mathew Thankachan (Junior Research Fellow, July 2015-June 2016) Current position: PhD student at the Subba Rao Lab, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.
Milind Singh (BEST Summer Intern, May 2015-June 2015) Current position: PhD student at Yale University



Cells employ tiny machines called ‘motor proteins’ to carry out a myriad of functions including maintenance of cellular organization, transport of substances across the cell, and generation of forces required for cell division. These activities of motor proteins are facilitated by polymers inside the cell termed ‘microtubules’. Microtubules function as tracks for motor movement, and alternately as ropes which motor proteins pull on.

Several cellular processes require a coordination of motor proteins and microtubules. Scientists have gained a wealth of information by replicating cellular processes involving motors and microtubules outside living cell, in what are called ‘in vitro’ experiments. However, understanding the complex intracellular milieu within which motors operate to organize the cell remains an elusive quest. A thorough investigation of processes regulating motors and microtubules therefore lets us see how these processes unravel in both contexts of health and disease (including neurodegeneration and cancers), where they go rogue.


The Cytoskeleton and Motors Lab (Cytomotors Lab) led by Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan investigates 2 main themes: regulation of the activity of motor proteins, and the role of microtubules in cellular organization and organelle dynamics.

The motor protein cytoplasmic dynein-1 (called dynein henceforth) transports several different cargoes along microtubules towards the cell center. Recent research in vitro has demonstrated that dynein is activated only when it binds to another regulatory protein termed dynactin, and an adaptor protein that aids dynein binding to a specific kind of cargo molecule. How do these three molecules come together in living cells? In another process termed ‘cargo sorting’ several different kinds of motor proteins, including dynein, participate in determining the fate of internalized cargo. How do motor proteins dictate the sorting protocol? We approach both these questions by developing and employing techniques for visualization and tracking of single of fluorescent motor proteins in living cells.

Organization of cellular contents is brought about in part by motor proteins and microtubules. Mitochondria are membrane-bound structures within cells that are required for energy production. Mitochondrial form continuously changes in living cells via fission and fusion events. An equilibrium between fission and fusion is required for proper mitochondrial function. In neurodegenerative disease states, mitochondria appear predominantly fragmented and show dysfunction. Preliminary studies have indicated a role for microtubules and motor proteins in maintaining this equilibrium. What is the role of microtubules in maintenance of mitochondrial dynamics? The Cytomotors lab explores this question using high-resolution fluorescence microscopy of microtubules and mitochondria in live cells to visualize dynamic interactions between the two.




Tirumala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Role of dynactin in the intracellular localization and activation of cytoplasmic dynein', Biochemistry (2019) [pdf]

Chacko, Mehta and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Cortical tethering of mitochondria by the anchor protein Mcp5 enables uniparental inheritance', Journal of Cell Biology (2019) [pdf]

Mehta, Chacko, Chug, Jhunjhunwala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Association of mitochondria with microtubules inhibits mitochondrial fission by precluding assembly of the fission protein Dnm1', Journal of Biological Chemistry (2019) [pdf]


Thankachan, Nuthalapati, Tirumala and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Fission Yeast Myosin I Facilitates PI(4,5)P 2-mediated Anchoring of Cytoplasmic Dynein to the Cortex', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2017) [pdf]

Meka, Chacko, Ravi, Chatterjee and Ananthanarayanan*, 'Role of Microtubules in Osteogenic Differentiation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells on 3D Nanofibrous Scaffolds', ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering (2017) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan*, 'Activation of the motor protein upon attachment: Anchors weigh in on cytoplasmic dynein regulation', Bioessays (2016) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan* and Tolic, 'Single Molecule Imaging of Cytosplamic Dynein in vivo', Methods in Cell Biology 125 (2015) [pdf]


Krull, Steinborn, Ananthanarayanan, Ramunno-Johnson, Petersohn, Tolic-Norrelykke*, 'A divide-and-conquer strategy for the maximum likelihood localization of low intensity objects', Optics Express 22(1), 210-228 (2014) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan, Schattat, Vogel, Krull, Pavin*, Tolic-Norrelykke*, 'Dynein motion switches from diffusive to directed upon cortical anchoring', Cell 153: 1526-1536 (2013) [pdf]


Ananthanarayanan* and Thies*, 'Biocoder: A programming language for standardizing and automating Biology protocols', Journal of Biological Engineering 4:13 (2010) [pdf]

*Corresponding author(s)

Popular Science/Outreach


RI Mazumdar Young Investigator Award (2019-2021)
SERB Women Excellence Award (2019-2022)
EMBO Young Investigator Award (2019-2023)
Wellcome Trust/DBT-India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship (2019-2024)
SERB Early Career Research Award (2016-2019)
DBT Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award (2015-2018)
DST INSPIRE Faculty Award (2014-2018)
IISc Startup Grant

Open Positions

Post-doctoral positions

Applications for post-doctoral positions are welcome. Please send 1) a cover letter detailing your research career to date and your proposal for Post-Doctoral research and 2) your complete CV with referee information to vaishnavi[at]

News and Events


  • Paper accepted at the Journal of Cell Biology
    August 2019 - Our manuscript on mitochondrial inheritance during meiosis in fission yeast has been accepted at the Journal of Cell Biology! Congratulations to all the authors!

  • New additions to the lab
    August 2019 - Harsh Kumar joins the lab as a joint PhD student with Prof. Sandhya S. Visweswariah. Welcome Harsh!

  • preLights
    August 2019 - Leeba joins preLights! Here's her first feature. Congratulations, Leeba!

  • New additions to the lab
    May/June 2019 - Ananya Rajagopal (PES Univeristy) and Lauren Raasch (U. Wisconsin-Madison) join the lab as BEST Summer Student and SN Bose Summer Scholar respectively. Welcome Ananya and Lauren!

  • Awards and recognition
    May 2019 - Vaishnavi is awarded the SERB Women Excellence Award, the R.I. Mazumdar Young Investigator Felloship, BITSAA 30u30 Award and is featured the Journal of Cell Science's 'Cell Scientist to Watch' column.

  • Preprint uploaded
    January 2019 - Our manuscript on uniparental mitochondrial inheritance in fission yeast is now online on bioRxiv!

  • Paper accepted
    January 2019 - Our manuscript on microtubule-mediated mitochondrial dynamics is accepted at JBC! 'Paper in press' link here.


    November 2018 - Vaishnavi is elected EMBO Young Investigator! More information about the EMBO YI Programme here and media release by IISc here.

  • Awards and honors
    July 2018 - Vaishnavi is elected Associate of the Indian Academy of Sciences and is awarded the Wellcome Trust-DBT/ India Alliance Intermediate Fellowship!

  • Dynein poster
    July 2018 - Vaishnavi presents a poster on the dynein work at the GRC on Cytoskeleton Motors, Vermont, USA

  • Lab flux
    July 2018 - Aditya successfuly completes his BEST internship, Rishabh heads to Boston Univeristy for an M.Tech. and Kritika to UIUC for a PhD. Anand (IIT Roorkee) joins the lab as a Project Assistant, Mitali (VIT, Vellore) for her PhD and Harit (IISc) for his final year project. Welcome!

  • New additions to the lab
    May/June 2018 - Keval (CMC, Vellore), Aditya (IIT Madras) and Elsa (Univ. of Notre Dame, USA) join the lab for the summer. Welcome!

  • 2017

  • Dynein poster
    December 2017 - Nireekshit presents a poster on dynein regulation at the single molecule level at the Current Trends in Intracellular Trafficking and Molecular Motors Meeting held at TIFR/IIT Bombay

  • Image analysis lectures and more mitochondria
    December 2017 - Vaishnavi delivers lectures at the QIP course and International Workshop on Modern Biophysical Tools and Techniques held at IIT Bombay, and talks more mitochondria at the Natural and Artificial Molecular Motors meeting and Current Trends in Intracellular Trafficking and Molecular Motors held at TIFR/IIT Bombay

  • Talk at ICTS
    November 2017 - Vaishnavi presents the lab's research at the Collective Dynamics of-, on- and around filaments in living cells: Motors, MAPS, TIPS and tracks meeting held at ICTS, Bangalore

  • Talks about mitochondria
    November 2017 - Vaishnavi talks mitochondria at the EMBO Frontiers in Cytoskeleton Meeting at IISER Pune and the MitoMetab Dicussion Meeting, also at IISER Pune

  • New addition to the lab
    October 2017 - Leeba joins the lab as Junior Research Fellow. Welcome Leeba!

  • Position at IISc
    October 2017 - Vaishnavi officially joins BSSE as an Assistant Professor

  • Research on bioRxiv
    August 2017 - Our manuscript entitled 'Microtubule dynamics regulates mitochondrial fission' is on bioRxiv now!

  • New addition to the lab
    August 2017 - Reshma joins the lab as Project Assistant. Welcome Reshma!

  • Talks at IISc
    July 2017 - Vaishnavi presents the lab's research in talks at MBU and CeNSE, IISc

  • Image Analysis Worskhop
    June 2017 - Vaishnavi teaches a session on image analysis at the Indian Society of Developmental Biologists' Biennial Meeting Workshop

  • Jacques Monod Conference
    May 2017 - Vaishnavi presents a poster at the Jacques Monod Conference 'Actin and Microtubule Cytoskeleton, held at Roscoff, France

  • Summer Internships
    May 2017 - Parth and Manish join the lab as a part of the Bioengineering Summer Training Programme. Welcome!

  • Featured on IndiaBioscience
    April 2017 - Our research on the dynein-myosin connection has been featured on IndiaBioscience!

  • Research featured on IISc and BSSE website
    March 2017 - Our research on the dynein-myosin connection has been featured on the BSSE and IISc website! The write-up appears here and here.

  • Yale admit
    March 2017 - Milind Singh, who interned in the lab for BEST 2015, is accepted to the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Doctoral Program at Yale University. Congrats, Milind!

  • Lucky February
    February 2017 - Our paper on the regulation of the microtubule-based cytoplasmic dynein motor by actin-based myosin I motor is accepted in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences!

  • 1st research paper from the lab
    February 2017 - Our paper on the role of microtubules in osteogenic differentiation on 3D scaffolds is accepted in ACS Biomaterials Science and Engineering!

  • Best Poster Award
    January 2017 - Nireekshit's poster gets recognition at the 3rd BSSE Annual Symposium. Congrats Nireekshit!

  • 2016

  • Mechanical Forces in Cell Biology
    October 2016 - Nireekshit's abstract is selected for poster presentation and Vaishnavi's for oral presentation at the Meeting held at NCBS.

  • New addition to the lab
    September 2016 - Tirthankar joins the lab as Research Associate. Welcome Tito!

  • New addition to the lab
    August 2016 - Amoolya joins the lab as Research Intern. Welcome Amoolya!

  • India Women Scientists Wikipedia Edit-a-thon
    July 2016 - Vaishnavi participates in the edit-a-thon organized by IndiaBioscience and shares her views on challenges faced by young women scientists in India. Press coverage of the event here.

  • New addition to the lab
    July 2016 - Stephen joins the lab as Research Assistant. Welcome, Stephen!

  • IISc PhD admit
    June 2016 - Jerrin is selected for a PhD position in the lab of Dr. Subba Rao, MCBL, IISc. Congrats, Jerrin!

  • Class topper
    June 2016 - Nireekshit tops the BSSE class of 2015. Congrats, Nireekshit!

  • Review essay on dynein regulation chosen as one of the highlights of the June 2016 issue of Bioessays
    May 2016 - More here

  • Review on dynein regulation accepted in Bioessays
    April 2016 - The lab's first review entitled "Activation of the motor upon attachment: Anchors weigh in on cytoplasmic dynein regulation" is accepted at Bioessays!

  • Women in Science, Education and Research (WiSER) Conclave, IISc
    April 2016 - Vaishnavi participates in a panel discussion entitled "Mantras for Success".

  • SERB Early Career Research Award
    February 2016 - Vaishnavi is awarded the ECR 2016 for her proposal on characterization of the anchor protein of dynein in fission yeast.

  • 2015

  • Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering PhD Programme
    August 2015 - Nireekshit joins the lab as a BSSE PhD student (co-supervised by Prof. Ananthasuresh). Welcome, Nireekshit!

  • New additions to the lab
    July 2015 - Ashwini and Jerrin join the lab as Project Assistant and Junior Research Fellow. Welcome, Ashwini and Jerrin!

  • Bioengineering Summer Training (BEST) Programme
    May 2015 - Milind joins the lab as a summer student under the BEST programme. Welcome, Milind!

  • DBT Innovative Young Biotechnologist Award
    April 2015 - Vaishnavi is awarded the IYBA 2014 for her proposal on mitochondrial dynamics.

  • 2014

  • DST INSPIRE Faculty Award
    January 2014 - Vaishnavi is awarded the DST INSPIRE Faculty Award 2013 for her proposal on dynein regulation.


Vaishnavi Ananthanarayanan
Assistant Professor
Centre for Biosystems Science and Engineering
3rd Floor, C Wing, Biological Sciences Building
Indian Institute of Science
C.V. Raman Avenue
Bangalore - 560012


vaishnavi [at]