Associate Professor, Neurology; Feinberg School of Medicine
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Anatomic Pathology, Neuropathology, Neuromuscular pathology
The early growth response (Egr) family of transcription factors are involved in cellular growth and differentiation and may play a role as initiation and propagation factors in some cancers. A major focus of our research is to understand the role of Egr transcription factors during development of the mammalian nervous system. We and others have discovered that these transcription factors regulate a variety of developmental processes including hindbrain organization, peripheral nerve myelination, sympathetic nervous system development, male and female fertility, induction of late phase long term potentiation (a form of synaptic plasticity) and muscle mechanoreceptor development. In the nervous system, Egr transcription factors are downstream signaling mediators of neuronal activity and growth factor molecules known as neurotrophins. We are actively exploring their role in mediating a variety of neurotrophin actions that include neurite outgrowth, synaptic vesicle protein regulation and muscle stretch receptor development. As plasticity related transcription factors, Egr genes are important for mediating nervous system adaptation to a variety of developmental and environmental stimuli. Egr transcription factors are also essential for some non-nervous system related developmental processes. For example, they are involved in monocyte and thymocyte development, and they are involved in growth and differentiation of pheochromocytoma and neuroblastoma tumors. Using these model systems of differentiation, we are exploring the varied developmental pathways and target genes regulated by Egr transcription factors to elucidate their roles in cancer and developmental biology.