Research into the basic mechanisms of cell adhesion and motility in cancer, with particular emphasis on the process of metastasis.
Labs in This Area
Cancer stem cell biology, cellular signaling and therapy responses in human brain tumors, in particular, glioblastoma (GBM)
Integrated genomic analysis by TCGA revealed tat GBMs can be classified into four clinically relevant subtypes, proneural (PN), neural, mesenchymal (Mes) and classical GBMs with each characterized by distinct gene expression signatures and genetic alterations. We reported that PN and Mes glioma stem cells (GSCs) subtypes also have distinct dysregulated signaling pathways. Our current research focuses on novel mechanisms/cellular signaling of GSC biology, tumorigenesis, progression, invasion/metastasis, angiogenesis and therapy responses of GSCs and GBMs.
1. MicroRNAs (miRs) and non-coding RNAs in GSCs and GBMs – miRs and other small non-coding RNAs act as transcription repressors or inducers of gene expression or functional modulators in all multicellular organisms. Dysregulated miRs/noncoding RNAs plays critical roles in cancer initiation, progression and responses to therapy. We study the mechanisms by which deregulated expression of miRs influence GBM malignant phenotypes through interaction with signaling pathways, that in turn, influence proneural (PN)- and mesenchymal (Mes)-associated gene expression in GSCs and GBM phenotypes. We study the molecular consequences and explore clinical applications of modulating miRs and signaling pathways in GBMs. We are establishing profiles of non-coding RNAs in these GSCs and study mechanisms and biological influences of these non-coding RNAs in regulating GSC biology and GBM phenotypes. In addition, we explore novel therapeutic approaches of delivery of tumor suppressive miRs into GSC brain xenografts in animals.
2. Autophagy in GBMs. (Macro)autophagy is an evolutionally conserved dynamic process whereby cells catabolize damaged proteins and organelles in a lysosome-dependent manner. Autophagy principally serves as an adaptive role to protect cells and tissues, including those associated with cancer. Autophagy in response to multiple stresses including therapeutic treatments such as radiation and chemotherapies provides a mechanism for tumor cell to survive and acquire resistance to therapies. Tumors can use autophagy to support and sustain their proliferation, survival, metabolism, invasiveness, metastasis, and resistance to therapy. We study mechanisms by which phosphorylation, acetylation and ubiquitination of autophagy proteins regulate GSC and GBM phenotypes and autophagic response, which, in turn contributes to tumor cell survival, growth and resistance to therapy. We investigate whether disruption of these post-translational processes on autophagy proteins inhibits autophagy and enhances the efficacy of combination therapies for GBMs. We examine whether cross-talks between miRs, autophagy and oncogenic signaling pathways regulate GSC stemness and phenotypes.
3. Heterogeneity, epigenetic regulation, DNA damage and metabolic pathways in GSCs and GBMs. Intratumoral heterogeneity is a characteristic of GBMs and most of cancers. Phenotypic and functional heterogeneity arise among GBM cells within the same tumor as a consequence of genetic change, environmental differences and reversible changes in cell properties. Subtype mosaicism within the same tumor and spontaneous conversion of human PN to Mes tumors have been observed in clinical GBMs. We explore an emerging epigenetic marker with distinct functions such as DNA methylation together with genetic mapping of these markers to assess their contributions to GBM heterogeneity. In addition, compared with PN GSCs, DNA damage and glycolytic pathways are aberrant active in Mes GSCs. We investigate the mechanisms by which these pathways regulate GSC and GBM phenotypes and responses to therapies.
4. Oncogenic receptor tyrosine kinase (RTKs) signaling, small Rho GTPase regulators in GBM and GSCs: Small Rho GTPases such as Rac1 and Cdc42 modulate cancer cell migration, invasion, growth and survival. Recently, we described mechanisms by which EGFR and its mutant EGFRvIII, and PDGFR alpha promote glioma growth and invasion by distinct mechanisms involving phosphorylation of Dock180, a Rac-specific guanidine nucleotide exchange factor (GEF) and DCBLD2, an orphan membrane receptor. We are currently investigating involvement of other modulators/GEFs and other Rho GTPases in modulating GSC and GBM phenotypes and responses to therapy.
View Dr. Cheng's complete list of publications in PubMed.
Shi-Yuan Cheng, PhD at 312-503-5314
Visit us on campus in the Lurie Building, Room 6-119, 303 E Superior Street, Chicago, Illinois 60611.
Research Associate Professor
Namratha Sastry (rotating)
Studying the intermediate filament (IF) system in fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and nerve cells through biochemical, morphological, immunological, cell physiological, and molecular techniques
We focus on the structure and function of cytoskeletal systems, particularly the intermediate filament (IF) system in fibroblasts, epithelial cells, and nerve cells. IFs are composed of large families of proteins that vary in composition from one cell type to another--even among cells in the same tissue. Using a variety of techniques, we have demonstrated that IFs form elaborate networks that course throughout the cytoplasm and establish connections with both the nuclear and cell surfaces.
At the nuclear surface, they are linked either directly or indirectly with the nuclear lamins, which are chromatin-associated IF protein family members. At the level of the plasma membrane, IFs are involved as cytoskeletal linkages to the focal adhesion of fibroblasts and the desmosomes and hemidesmosomes of epithelial cells. Throughout the cytoplasm, we have shown that IFs are associated with the other cytoskeletal elements, such as microtubules and microfilaments.
Our approach to studying the IF system involves biochemical, morphological, immunological, cell physiological, and molecular techniques. Our hypothesis is that the IF system forms a continuous network linking the nuclear and cell surfaces, functioning in such diverse activities as the establishment and maintenance of cell shape, organelle movements within the cytoplasm, nuclear positioning, nuclear-cytoplasmic interactions, and signal transduction.
Since many human diseases have been linked to changes in cytoskeletal IF systems, we are also developing models to study the mechanisms involved in IF alterations in various diseases. One example is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) in which we have been able to induce neurofibrillary tangles to form in single cultured nerve cells. These tangles are similar to those found in ALS neurons. Therefore, we are able to study the effects of neurofilament tangle formation in single cells. During the summer, researchers from this laboratory also conduct studies on the mechanisms of chromatin/nuclear envelope interactions in eggs of the surf clam at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole.
See Dr. Goldman's publications on PubMed.
Contact Dr. Goldman at 312-503-4215.
The Gottardi Lab investigates how cells adhere to each other and how this adhesion is regulated and controls gene expression in heath and disease.
The ability of individual cells to adhere and coalesce into distinct tissues is a major feature of multicellular organisms. Research in my laboratory centers on a protein complex that projects from the cell surface and forms a structural “Velcro” that holds cells to one another. This complex is comprised of a transmembrane “cadherin” component that mediates Ca++-dependent homophilic recognition, and a number of associated “catenins” that link cadherins to the underlying cytoskeleton. A major focus in our lab is to understand how these catenins direct static versus fluid adhesive states at the plasma membrane, as well as gene expression and differentiation in the nucleus. These basic questions are shedding new light on how dysregulation of the cadherin/catenin adhesion system drives pathologies such as asthma, fibrosis and cancer.
See Dr. Gottardi's publications in PubMed.
For more information, please see Dr. Gottardi's faculty profile.
Graduate Student- TGSG
Cell-to-cell adhesion molecules' integration of mechanical and signaling functions in skin and heart differentiation, disease, and cancer
Dr. Green's research program focuses on how cell-cell adhesion molecules and their associated proteins integrate mechanical and chemical signaling pathways to contribute to the development and maintenance of multicellular tissues. In particular they are investigating how specialized intercellular junctions called desmosomes are assembled and function in ways that transcend their classic textbook definition as spot welds. The lab has shown that desmosomal cadherins help control the balance of proliferation and differentiation and even regulate the production of cytokines that participate in paracrine signaling. Loss of this “brake” results in increased allergic and inflammatory pathways that underlie pathogenesis in inherited disease and possibly cancer, including melanoma. Desmosomes also integrate the functions of other intercellular junctions including gap junctions, and interfering mutations can cause lethal heart arrhythmias.
The lab uses a multi-faceted approach, including but not limited to collaborative atomic structure determinations, molecular genetics, live cell imaging, human tissue engineering and gene targeting approaches. Dr. Green serves as Associate Director for Basic Sciences in the R.H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center.
For more information, see the faculty profile of Kathleen J Green, PhD.
See Dr. Green's publications in PubMed.
The Ridge Lab investigates the role of intermediate filaments in lung pathophysiology
Vimentin is also involved in all stages of cancer development, from PI3K/AKT and Erk pathway regulation in tumerogenesis, to its defining role in epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, to metastatic cell invasion and migration, making it an intriguing therapeutic target. Our purpose in examining vimentin’s role in lung cancer is to determine whether its inhibition might be of benefit to patients.
View our lab’s publications in PubMed.
To learn more, please visit the faculty profile pages of Karen M. Ridge, PhD
Contact Dr. Ridge at 312-503-1648 or the Ridge Lab at 312-503-0403
Research Technologist 2
Research Technologist I
Research Technologist I
Dale Shumaker, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Research Technologist 3
Research Technologist I
Kristin Wiese, MD
Contributions of immune cell-mediated inflammation to development and progression of colorectal cancers
Immune cells are critical for host defense, however immune cell infiltration of mucosal surfaces under the conditions of inflammation leads to significant alteration of the tissue homeostasis. This includes restructuring of the extracellular matrix and alterations in cell-to-cell adhesions. Particularly, immune cell-mediated disruption of junctional adhesion complexes, which otherwise regulate epithelial cell polarity, migration, proliferation and differentiation can facilitate both tumorigenesis and cancer metastasis. Our research thus focuses on understanding the mechanisms governing leukocyte induced tissue injury and disruption of epithelial integrity as potential risk factors for tumor formation, growth and tissue dissemination.
Ronen Sumagin, PhD
Assistant Professor in Pathology
The Wu Laboratory seeks to understand molecular mechanisms regulating gene expression and their involvement in the pathogenesis of age-related diseases, including neurodegeneration and tumor metastasis.
RNA Processing and Neurodegeneration
Accumulating evidence supports that aberrant RNA processing represents a general pathogenic mechanism for neurodegeneration, including dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). A number of RNA binding proteins (RBPs) have been associated with neurodegenerative diseases, especially various proteinopathies. Recent studies have defined TDP-43 and FUS proteinopathies, a group of heterogeneous neurodegenerative disorders overlapping with dementia, including fronto-temporal lobar degeneration (FTLD) and ALS. Several important questions drive our research: what is physiological function of these RBPs? What are the fundamental mechanisms by which genetic mutations in or aberrant regulation of these RBPs cause neural damage? What are the earliest detectable molecular and cellular events that reflect the neural damage in these devastating neurological diseases? How to reverse/repair the neural damage and slow down the progression of these devastating diseases.
To address these questions, we have established cellular and animal models for both TDP-43 and FUS proteinopathies (Li et al, 2010;Barmada et al, 2010; Chen et al, 2011; Fushimi et al, 2011). Using combined biochemical, biophysical, molecular biology and cell biology approaches, we have begun to examine the molecular pathogenic mechanisms underlying neurotoxicity induced by TDP-43 and FUS. Our recent work using atomic force microscopy (AFM), electron microscopy (EM) and (NMR) approaches has shown the biochemical, biophysical and structural similarities between TDP-43 and classical amyloid proteins (Guo et al, 2011; Xu et al, 2013; Bigio et al, 2013). Our study has defined a minimal amyloidogenic region at the carboxyl terminal domain of TDP-43 that is sufficient for amyloid fibril formation and neurotoxicity (Guo et al, 2011; Zhu et al, unpublished). Using cellular and animal models for FUS proteinopathy, we have begun to identify the earliest detectable cellular damage caused by mutations in and overexpression of the human FUS gene. Our data have provided new insights into pathogenic mechanisms underlying these proteinopathies and suggested candidate targets for developing therapeutic approaches.
A critical step in mammalian gene expression is the removal of introns by the process of pre-mRNA splicing. Alternative pre-mRNA splicing, the process of generating multiple mRNA transcripts from a single genetic locus by alternative selection of distinct splice sites, is one of most powerful mechanisms for genetic diversity and an excellent means for fine-tuning gene activity. Many genes critical for neuronal survival and function undergo extensive alternative splicing. Splicing defects play important roles in neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia and motor neuron diseases. For example, splicing mutations in the human tau gene and imbalance of tau splicing isoforms lead to fronto-temporal lobar degeneration with tau-positive pathology (FTLD-tau). To understand mechanisms underlying FTLD-tau, we have set up a model system and developed a number of biochemical, molecular and cell biological assays to study alternative splicing of the human tau gene. Our work has led to the identification of a number of cis-elements and trans-acting RBPs controlling tau alternative splicing (Kar et al, 2006; Wu et al, 2006; Kar et al, 2011; Ray et al, 2011). Our experiments have begun to reveal previously unknown players in FTLD-tau and provided new candidate target genes for developing therapeutic strategy (Donahue et al, 2006; unpublished).
Molecular Mechanisms Regulating Axon Guidance, Cell Migration & Tumor Metastasis
Another line of our research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating cell migration and cancer metastasis. Previous studies from our group and others led to the discovery of Slit as a prototype of neuronal guidance cue. Our studies have shown that Slit interacts with Roundabout (Robo) and acts as a chemorepellent for axons and migrating neurons (Wu et al, 1999; Li et al, 1999;Yuasa-Kawada et al, 2009). Our work has demonstrated that Slit-Robo signaling modulates chemokines and inhibits migration of different types of cells, including cancer cells. The observation that Slit is frequently inactivated in a range of tumors suggests an important role of Slit in tumor suppression. We have established several assays and shown that Slit inhibits invasion and migration of cancer cells, including breast cancer, glioma and prostate cancer. We are using combined molecular and cell biology approaches to dissecting Slit-Robo signaling in neuronal guidance and tumor suppression. Our research has provided new insights into signal transduction pathways mediating Slit function. Enhancing or activating the endogenous mechanisms that restrict or suppress cancer invasion/metastasis will likely provide novel approaches to cancer metastasis.
View a full list of publications by Jane Wu at PubMed
Jane Wu, MD, PhD, at 312-503-0684
Sidan Du, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Kazuo Fushimi, PhD
Haipeng Cheng, PhD
Yang Li, PhD
Guodong Liu, PhD
Jun Shi, PhD
Warren McGee (MSTP)
Molecular Mechanisms of Tumorigenesis and Cancer Metastasis
The Zhang laboratory is focused on two research directions: 1) determining role of tumor suppressors in development and cancer progression, and 2) identifying immune components that control breast cancer metastasis.
The main focus of my research program is to study the roles of tumor suppressors in normal development and in breast and prostate cancer progression, focusing on maspin and an Ets transcription factor PDEF. Maspin is a unique member of the SERPIN family that plays roles in normal tissue development, tumor metastasis, and angiogenesis. Genetic studies by my laboratory using maspin transgenic and knockout mice demonstrated an important role of maspin in normal mammary, prostate, and embryonic development. Recently, we have identified several new properties of maspin. As a protein that is present on cell surface, maspin controls cell-ECM adhesion. This function is responsible for maspin-mediated suppression of tumor cell motility and invasion. We have also discovered that maspin is involved in the induction of tumor cell apoptosis through a mitochondrial death pathway. The long-term goals of these projects are to elucidate the molecular mechanisms by which maspin and PDEF control tumor metastasis and to identify their physiological functions in development. These analyses are not only important for basic biology and but also may lead to a therapy for cancer and other developmental diseases.
Another focus of research in Zhang lab is to identify immune components that control breast cancer metastasis. Chronic inflammation not only increases neoplastic transformation but also drives the inhibition of the immune response in a protective negative-feedback mechanism. Suppressive immune cells are recruited to the sites of inflammation and function to inhibit both innate and adaptive immune responses, enabling tumor tolerance and unmitigated tumor progression. To study the interplay between tumor and immune cells, the Zhang lab has developed a unique animal model of breast cancer that reproduces different stages of breast cancer bone metastasis. Molecules that control tumor-immune cell interaction and immunosuppression have been identified. We are currently studying roles of these genes in tumor-driven evolution that control chronic inflammation and immunosuppression. We hypothesize that these key pro-inflammatory genes are upregulated during cancer progression, which function synergistically to recruit and activate suppressive MDSCs, TAMs and Tregs, inducing chronic inflammation and an immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment conducive to metastatic progression.
For more information visit Ming Zhang's faculty profile.
View publications by Ming Zhang in PubMed