Alenka Lovy


BS, Biology
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Amherst, MA
MS, Plant Physiology
Washington State Universtiy
Pullman, WA
PhD, Plant Biology
University of Massachusetts - Amherst
Amherst, MA
Research Assistant Professor



I am interested in mitochondrial dynamics and how structural changes in the networks of mitochondria affect cell metabolism and signaling. Many cellular processes including bioenergetics, calcium regulation, autophagy, and apoptosis depend on the integrity of mitochondria, which correlates with an actively fusing network. Diseased states exhibit fragmented mitochondrial morphology. Upon fragmentation, inactive depolarized mitochondria are actively recycled by mitophagy to avoid weakening of the rest of the network. If this process fails, then fragmented mitochondria lead the cell into apoptosis. On the other hand, highly elongated mitochondria could increase the production of reactive oxygen species to a fatal level. Therefore, the balance of mitochondrial fission and fusion are essential for cell metabolism. Among other functions, mitochondria play a key role in calcium homeostasis, and through communication with the endosplasmic reticulum, can control the bioenergetics of a cell. In collaboration with J. Cesar Cardenas, we are investigating how InsP(3)R-released calcium affects mitochondrial dynamics and cell survival.

Mitochondrial fusion is quantified in living cells by photo-conversion of matrix targeted photoactivatable GFP (mtPAGFP) in a subset of the mitochondrial network. The rate at which the photoconverted molecules equilibrate across the entire mitochondrial population is used as a measure of fusion activity. Recently we have automated this method, and thus provide a more time efficient assay without sacrificing the subcellular resolution or kinetic parameters necessary to capture the detail of mitochondrial behavior in its native cytoarchitectural environment.

Learn more about this assay.

We are also measuring mitochondrial calcium, membrane potential, and reactive oxygen species using various techniques available in the Tufts Imaging Facility. Please contact me if you are interested in using some of these techniques in your own research!

Learn more about the Tufts Imaging Facility