Dr Ulrike Gruneberg

MRC Senior Research Fellow

Associate Professor of Experimental Pathology

Fellow of Keble College 






I studied Biology and Biochemistry at the Universities of Cologne, Sussex and Witten/Herdecke. During my undergraduate studies I became fascinated  by the immune system and its ability to distinguish self from non-self. My interest in the immune system led me to my PhD project at the Cancer Research UK London Institute where I joined John Trowsdale's lab to investigate the regulation of antigen presentation by the MHC class II molecule HLA-DM. My research into the intracellular processes that are necessary for effective antigen presentation made me aware of the intriguing other things that cells do, most prominently, divide!

After completing my PhD I decided to find out more about how cells divide and joined Elmar Schiebel's lab at the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow, investigating budding yeast microtubule organisation and mitosis. Having gained knowledge about yeast cell division I realised that some elements of the cell division process, in particular cytokinesis, are regulated quite differently from higher eukaryotes in yeast. In order to learn about human cell division, too, I moved to Erich Nigg's lab the Max-Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Martinsried near Munich. In Erich's department I studied the mechanics of cytokinesis and the role of the chromosomal passenger complex in regulating this process. One of my key discoveries during this time was the demonstration that key cell cycle kinases such as the chromosomal passenger complex kinase Aurora B and Citron kinase, important for cytokinesis, are actively localised to their places of action by motor proteins (Gruneberg et al., 2004; Gruneberg et al., 2006), an unprecedented concept at the time. 

In 2007, supported by a Cancer Research UK Career Development Fellowship, I started my own lab, first at the University of Liverpool, and from 2011 at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Oxford. My aim was to to explore the role of phosphatases in the regulation of mammalian cell division. During that time my lab discovered a major function for the PP2A family phosphatase PP6 in the regulation of mitotic spindle formation and chromosome segregation, and we also identified the astrin-kinastrin complex as a key microtubule-plus end tracking activity required for efficient mitosis. In 2013 I moved to the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology where my lab is situated now. I currently hold an MRC Senior Research Fellowship and a collaborative BBSRC Strategic LoLa grant, and the work of my lab is focused on understanding the regulatory players that orchestrate cell division, in particular kinases and phosphatases.