Our lab is currently working on two independent projects. The first project is to understand the molecular roles of the CDC73 tumor suppressor gene. Defects of the CDC73 gene are strongly linked to parathyroid cancer and tumors in other tissues, including the jaw, kidneys, and uterus. Mice missing the CDC73 gene die at early embryonic stage. These findings suggest that the CDC73 gene is critical for both development and progression to malignancy in parathyroid tumors. Using mainly fruit fly and mammalian systems, we are trying to shed light on the genetic and molecular interacting networks associated with the CDC73 gene in its tumor-suppression function.
The second project is to determine the biological significance and molecular functions of a special set of proteins that form a complex and work together to help cells communicate with each other. These complexes are embedded in the cell membranes of brain cells (neurons) and specialized neurons that communicate with the body’s glandular system, or endocrine system. We studying the communication process of these neurons, specifically how they are impacted by signals from a specific protein in the complex called Gβ5. We’ve learned, for instance, that mice lacking this protein are severely developmentally delayed and show noticeable abnormal neuron development, but just how Gβ5 impacts cell-to-cell communication via the endocrine system is poorly understood. Our project aims to learn more about the basic molecular interactions and cellular functions of this signaling complex—which is found across different species—to help medical scientists treat neuronal and endocrine diseases.