Our research focuses on two areas: (1) understanding diseases of parathyroid (glands in the neck that control the level of calcium in the blood), and (2) determining how a complex of two signaling proteins influences the activity of neurons (brain cells) and neuroendocrine cells (cells that release hormones).
We study the disease processes and impact of parathyroid cancer and an inherited form of hyperparathyroidism, the hyperparathyroidism-jaw tumor syndrome (HPT-JT). HPT-JT runs in families, and 15 percent of people affected by HPT-JT have parathyroid cancer. Approximately 10 percent of adult cases are carrying the gene without apparent effects. Scientists know that this condition is linked to the CDC73/HRPT2 gene, which suppresses tumors and is located in an area of chromosome 1. In parathyroid tumors from people with HPT-JT and in parathyroid cancer, this gene is frequently inactive. We use studies of mammalian and Drosophila model systems to explore the key molecular mechanisms and trace this biological pathway from gene to tumor growth.
We also study two signaling proteins that work together in a complex. These include the G protein β5 complex with a regulator of G protein signaling (RGS) proteins. These proteins are found in the membranes, nuclei, and cytoplasm of brain cells and specialized brain cells that release hormones. We are trying to understand how these protein complexes work to control what happens within cells and the cells’ subsequent actions.