Instructor, Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
Honors & Awards
Postdoctoral Scholar, Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation (2009-present)
Here we report the discovery of oncogenic mutations in the Hedgehog and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways in over 80% of ameloblastomas, locally destructive odontogenic tumors of the jaw, by genomic analysis of archival material. Mutations in SMO (encoding Smoothened, SMO) are common in ameloblastomas of the maxilla, whereas BRAF mutations are predominant in tumors of the mandible. We show that a frequently occurring SMO alteration encoding p.Leu412Phe is an activating mutation and that its effect on Hedgehog-pathway activity can be inhibited by arsenic trioxide (ATO), an anti-leukemia drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that is currently in clinical trials for its Hedgehog-inhibitory activity. In a similar manner, ameloblastoma cells harboring an activating BRAF mutation encoding p.Val600Glu are sensitive to the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib. Our findings establish a new paradigm for the diagnostic classification and treatment of ameloblastomas.
View details for DOI 10.1038/ng.2986
View details for PubMedID 24859340
Hedgehog (Hh) signaling during development and in postembryonic tissues requires activation of the 7TM oncoprotein Smoothened (Smo) by mechanisms that may involve endogenous lipidic modulators. Exogenous Smo ligands previously identified include the plant sterol cyclopamine (and its therapeutically useful synthetic mimics) and hydroxylated cholesterol derivatives (oxysterols); Smo is also highly sensitive to cellular sterol levels. The relationships between these effects are unclear because the relevant Smo structural determinants are unknown. We identify the conserved extracellular cysteine-rich domain (CRD) as the site of action for oxysterols on Smo, involving residues structurally analogous to those contacting the Wnt lipid adduct in the homologous Frizzled CRD; this modulatory effect is distinct from that of cyclopamine mimics, from Hh-mediated regulation, and from the permissive action of cellular sterol pools. These results imply that Hh pathway activity is sensitive to lipid binding at several Smo sites, suggesting mechanisms for tuning by multiple physiological inputs.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.devcel.2013.07.015
View details for Web of Science ID 000323851700005
View details for PubMedID 23954590
Animals sense changes in ambient temperature irrespective of whether core body temperature is internally maintained (homeotherms) or subject to environmental variation (poikilotherms). Here we show that a cold-sensitive ion channel, TRPM8, displays dramatically different thermal activation ranges in frogs versus mammals or birds, consistent with variations in these species' cutaneous and core body temperatures. Thus, somatosensory receptors are not static through evolution, but show functional diversity reflecting the characteristics of an organism's ecological niche.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0005741
View details for Web of Science ID 000266490000015
View details for PubMedID 19492038
Transient receptor potential (TRP) ion channels have been implicated in detecting chemical, thermal, and mechanical stimuli in organisms ranging from mammals to Caenorhabditis elegans. It is well established that TRPA1 detects and mediates behavioral responses to chemical irritants. However, the role of TRPA1 in detecting thermal and mechanical stimuli is controversial. To further clarify the functions of TRPA1 channels in vertebrates, we analyzed their roles in zebrafish. The two zebrafish TRPA1 paralogs are expressed in sensory neurons and are activated by several chemical irritants in vitro. High-throughput behavioral analyses of trpa1a and trpa1b mutant larvae indicate that TRPA1b is necessary for behavioral responses to these chemical irritants. However, TRPA1 paralogs are not required for behavioral responses to temperature changes or for mechanosensory hair cell function in the inner ear or lateral line. These results support a role for zebrafish TRPA1 in chemical but not thermal or mechanical sensing, and establish a high-throughput system to identify genes and small molecules that modulate chemosensation, thermosensation, and mechanosensation.
View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2740-08.2008
View details for Web of Science ID 000259702300022
View details for PubMedID 18829968
TRP cation channels function as cellular sensors in uni- and multicellular eukaryotes. Despite intensive study, the mechanisms of TRP channel activation by chemical or physical stimuli remain poorly understood. To identify amino acid residues crucial for TRP channel gating, we developed an unbiased, high-throughput genetic screen in yeast that uncovered rare, constitutively active mutants of the capsaicin receptor, TRPV1. We show that mutations within the pore helix domain dramatically increase basal channel activity and responsiveness to chemical and thermal stimuli. Mutation of corresponding residues within two related TRPV channels leads to comparable effects on their activation properties. Our data suggest that conformational changes in the outer pore region are critical for determining the balance between open and closed states, providing evidence for a general role for this domain in TRP channel activation.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2008.04.012
View details for Web of Science ID 000255815200010
View details for PubMedID 18466747
The capsaicin receptor, TRPV1, contributes to thermal and chemical sensitivity of primary afferent neurons of the pain pathway, but many aspects of its regulation remain elusive. In this issue of Neuron, Lishko et al. describe a high-resolution structure of a TRPV1 domain, providing insight into the molecular basis of channel modulation while revealing new functions for a widely expressed protein interaction fold.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.06.011
View details for Web of Science ID 000247645600002
View details for PubMedID 17582323
FKBP12-rapamycin associated protein (FRAP, also known as mTOR or RAFT) is the founding member of the phosphatidylinositol kinase-related kinase family and functions as a sensor of physiological signals that regulate cell growth. Signals integrated by FRAP include nutrients, cAMP levels, and osmotic stress, and cellular processes affected by FRAP include transcription, translation, and autophagy. The mechanisms underlying the integration of such diverse signals by FRAP are largely unknown. Recently, FRAP has been reported to be regulated by mitochondrial dysfunction and depletion of ATP levels. Here we show that exposure of cells to hyperosmotic conditions (and to glucose-deficient growth medium) results in rapid and reversible dissipation of the mitochondrial proton gradient. These results suggest that the ability of FRAP to mediate osmotic stress response (and glucose deprivation response) is by means of an intermediate mitochondrial dysfunction. We also show that in addition to cytosolic FRAP a large portion of FRAP associates with the mitochondrial outer membrane. The results support the existence of a stress-sensing module consisting of mitochondria and mitochondrial outer membrane-associated FRAP. This module allows the cell to integrate a variety of stress signals that affect mitochondrial function and regulate a growth checkpoint involving p70 S6 kinase.
View details for Web of Science ID 000174856000036
View details for PubMedID 11930000