Opponent: Professor Giovanna Lattanzi, Istituto di Genetica Molecolare - Sede di Bologna, c/o Istituto Ortopedico Rizzoli -via di Barbiano 1/10, 40136 Bologna, Italy.
e-mail: lattanzi@area.bo.cnr.it

Abstract

The eukaryotic nuclear envelope (NE), separates the nucleoplasm from cytoplasm and is made up of two concentric lipid membranes, the outer and the inner nuclear membranes (ONM and INM), the nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) and an underlying filamentous nuclear lamina. The INM contains hundreds of unique transmembrane proteins of which only a handful have been characterized. In this thesis, I aimed to understand the functional organization of proteins in the nuclear envelope and I focused on investigating the functions of a recently identified INM transmembrane protein, Samp1. We have developed a novel and robust approach, MCLIP, to identify specific protein-protein interactions taking place in live cells. Using MCLIP, we have shown that Samp1 interacts with proteins of the LINC complex, the nuclear lamina and components of the mitotic spindle. Samp1's specific interactions with a variety of binding partners, suggest that Samp1 plays important roles both in interphase and in mitosis.  We have also shown that Samp1 can provide a binding site at the INM for the GTPase Ran, a master regulator of protein interactions in interphase and in mitosis. Furthermore, we have also investigated the role of Samp1 in cell differentiation using two independent model systems. In human iPSCs, ectopic expression of Samp1 promoted differentiation despite pluripotent culture conditions. In C2C12 myoblast, depletion of Samp1 completely blocked differentiation into myotubes. The two studies complement each other and suggest that Samp1 has a strong differentiation promoting activity. Taken together, the findings in this thesis, give insights on the unexpected and unforeseen roles played by a transmembrane protein in different fundamental cellular process.