Skip to main content
School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

Dr Vladimir Volkov


Lecturer in Physiology

Room Number: 4.19 G.E. Fogg Building
Twitter: @microtubule_guy


Open PhD student position for a student eligible for the China Scholarships scheme - more details here.

I was originally trained as a Pharmaceutical Chemist, but I became interested in Biophysics after doing an undergraduate project in the lab of Fazly Ataullakhanov. During my PhD with Ataullakhanov, I was a visiting researcher in the lab of Richard McIntosh at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO USA, where I worked on maximising the effeciency of microtubule force-coupling using kinetochore protein oligomers reconstituted in vitro. Using the data I generated in Colorado, I defended my PhD in Biophysics at the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2011. 

I have stayed with Ataullakhanov in Moscow, RU for several years developing an independent line of research aiming to characterise Centromere protein F (CENP-F) as a microtubule force-coupler. This involved a continuation of the collaboration with Dick McIntosh to work on CENP-F role in mitosis, and a new collaboration with Benoît Kornmann, then at ETH Zürich, to work on the role of CENP-F in coupling microtubule end dynamics to mitochondrial networks.

In 2016 I joined the lab of Marileen Dogterom at the Delft University of Technology as a postdoc, to work on a collaborative project with Pim Huis in 't Veld, a postdoc in the lab of Andrea Musacchio at the Max-Planck Institute of Molecular Physiology in Dortmund, focusing on reconstituting the multivalency of the microtubule-binding elements of the human kinetochore. 

More recently, I became interested in electron cryo-tomography as a way to resolve unique shapes of microtubule ends and proteins that bind to them. As a postdoc with Anna Akhmanova at the Utrecht University, I worked on resolving structures of microtubule ends stopped from polymerising or depolymerising by ciliary and centrosomal proteins.

I have joined QMUL as a Lecturer in 2022 to set up an independent research group focusing on dynamic and structural approaches to understand oligomerisation of microtubule end-binding proteins during end-coupling and force generation.

Undergraduate Teaching

Cell Biology (BIO116)
Essential Skills for Biomedical Scientists (BMD100)
Biomedical Physiology (BMD121)
Physiology (BIO125)


Research Interests:

Microtubules are dynamic biopolymers exerting forces when they grow or shorten. These forces are important in various contexts in living cells, such as during cell division, when microtubule ends attach to chromosomes and help them segregate to daughter cells. Microtubule ends transmit forces to cellular structures using teams of coupling protein molecules. Our research is focused on molecular and mechanical mechanisms by which these protein teams assemble and transmit the forces to cellular structures.

We hypothesize that regular microtubule lattice provides a platform for binding of force-coupling molecules, enhancing interactions between them, and thus creating multivalent protein complexes. To understand these multivalent interactions in detail, we reconstitute them in vitro using purified components, and use a range of experimental methods to understand their structure and dynamics. We use electron cryo-tomography to reconstruct 3D organization of microtubule end-bound protein complexes. We use single-molecule fluorescence to study effects of these complexes on microtubule dynamics. We also probe these interactions under force to understand how microtubules push and pull on cellular structures.


Selected peer-reviewed publications and preprints (#corresponding author, *equal contribution):

Nick Maleki A , Huis in 't Veld PJ, Akhmanova A, Dogterom M, Volkov VA#. Estimation of microtubule-generated forces using a DNA origami nanospring. J Cell Sci (2022) 136 (5), jcs260154. doi: 10.1242/jcs.260154

Polley S, Müschenborn H, Terbeck M, De Antoni A, Vetter IR, Dogterom M, Musacchio A#, Volkov VA#, Huis in ‘t Veld PJ#. Stable kinetochore-microtubule attachment requires loop-dependent Ndc80-Ndc80 binding  bioRxiv (2022). doi: 10.1101/2022.08.25.505310

Volkov VA#. Microtubules pull the strings: disordered sequences as efficient couplers of microtubule-generated force. Essays in Biochemistry (2020), 64(2), 371–382. doi: 10.1042/EBC20190078

Volkov VA*, Huis in 't Veld PJ*, Dogterom M, Musacchio A. Multivalency of NDC80 in the outer kinetochore is essential to track shortening microtubules and generate forces. eLife (2018) 7, e36764. doi: 10.7554/eLife.36764

Full publication list: Google Scholar Profile



Open PhD student position for a student eligible for the China Scholarships scheme - more details here.

Back to top