Kathleen Green, PhD
Professor, Pathology; Feinberg School of Medicine
The Green laboratory has a longstanding interest in defining functions of the cadherin family of adhesion receptors, with a particular focus on desmosomal cadherins and their associated proteins. These molecules assemble into intercellular junctions where they play critical roles in mediating cell-cell adhesion and tissue integrity. However, their functions transcend these structural roles--- cadherins also integrate cytoarchitectural and chemical signaling pathways to regulate tissue morphogenesis, differentiation and disease pathogenesis. While classic cadherins such as E- and N-cadherin have well-established roles in regulating tumor cell behavior including proliferation, cell migration, and metastasis, the roles of desmosomal cadherins and their associated proteins in cancer are poorly understood. Data from the Green lab support the idea that loss of differentiation-specific desmosomal cadherins called desmogleins promotes cancer progression and tumor metastasis by altering the balance of proliferation and differentiation in complex epithelial tissues such as the skin and oral cavity. In particular, their work suggests that these adhesion receptors are signaling scaffolds for novel protein partnerships that couple this family of adhesion receptors to pathways that mediate growth factor signaling, generation of reactive oxygen species and inflammation. The lab uses a multi-faceted approach to dissect the function of desmosomes in cancer including but not limited to collaborative atomic structure determinations, molecular genetics, live cell imaging, in vitro 3D epithelial models and in vivo animal models.