The Folker Lab

Boston College, Department of Biology


Nuclear Position and Muscle Development


Normal Muscle

Diseased Muscle

The nucleus is a dynamic organelle that occupies precise positions within the cell dependent on cell type, developmental stage, and cellular activity.  This is perhaps best illustrated in muscle tissue.

Muscle is a tissue made of myofibers, the cellular units of muscle.  Each myofiber is multinucleate, containing hundreds or even thousands of nuclei, which in mature muscle are positioned at the periphery of the cell with the distance between nuclei maximized. 

However, in individuals with many different muscle diseases mispositioned nuclei are prevalent.  In fact, that the nuclei are mispositioned has been used diagnostically for several decades.  Yet, little is known regarding the means by which nuclei are positioned in muscle or why nuclear position is so essential to muscle health.

We use the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, to unravel the genetic and molecular mechanisms of nuclear movement in muscle and determine the impact of improper nuclear position on muscle function.  The form of the myofiber is conserved from Drosophila to humans.  However, the myofibers are not bundled in Drosophila making the organism amenable to high resolution microscopy of the intact and still developing embryo.  Combined with the genetic tools that have been generated over the last century, the short life span of the organism, and our ability to assess muscle physiology, Drosophila is an ideal organism to associate subcellular movements with tissue development and function.

This cartoon illustrates the position of the nuclei shown in pink within the myofibers shown in green in both normal and diseased muscle tissue.  Although central nuclei are a hallmark of many muscle disorders, the cause and consequences of this aberrant positioning remain a mystery.

Research Opportunities

Undergraduates interested in genetics, cell biology, and muscle biology are encouraged to contact Eric directly -

Potential graduate students are encouraged to apply to the Boston College Biology Graduate Program.