Professor, Molecular Biosciences; Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Cancer Cell Biology
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The Carthew laboratory investigates how molecular signals are decoded into information that controls cell differentiation, growth, and morphogenesis during development. One project concerns how the family of growth factor signaling molecules control cell differentiation. These signals are received in cells by Receptor Tyrosine Kinases (RTKs) and are decoded into choices about cell differentiation. Only two growth factor signals are used to trigger differentiation of all cell-types in the eye, and they use a common signal transduction pathway called the RAS pathway. The RAS pathway also regulates cell proliferation in the eye, and mutations in the RAS pathway in humans lead to many different types of cancer. Another area of interest is in microRNAs. This remarkable class of RNAs constitutes 1% of the genes in the human genome, and they repress the expression of protein-coding genes by attenuating protein synthesis. From 4 - 20% of protein-coding genes might be directly controlled by microRNAs. The Carthew laboratory investigates how microRNAs specifically inhibit their target genes and the biological consequences of this regulation. For example, the laboratory discovered that microRNAs stimulate adult stem cells to divide continuously in a quiescent niche. Misregulation of microRNAs appears to underlie complex disease phenomena such as cancer susceptibility and progression. Indeed, microRNAs have been shown to act as oncogenes.