Morsani College of Medicine
Department of Molecular Medicine
Joint and Affiliate Faculty
Post-Doctorates / Research Associates
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Master's of Science Program
Allergy, Immunology and Infectious Diseases
USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute
Children's Research Institute (CRI)
Center for Drug Discovery and Innovation
H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center
James A Haley Veteran's Hospital
Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Assoc Professor, COLLEGE OF MEDICINE MOLECULAR MEDICINE
Human cells, including neurons in the brain, contain thousands of proteins that must work in concert to produce or perform our actions. Breathing, running, talking, remembering….all of these things are coordinated by thousands of proteins every second in our cells. This is what we work on in the lab. Hidden among those thousands of proteins is a group of sentinels called chaperones that, by definition, ensure propriety of all of these other proteins in the cell. Without chaperones, nothing would work properly. In fact, our lab and others have begun to show that many if not all of human disease is in some way affected by chaperones. There are approximately 150 chaperones in humans and each of these could be a drug target for human diseases. In particular, our lab has focused on a group of more than 15 neurological degenerative diseases collectively termed “tauopathies", the most common being Alzheimer’s disease. We have also seen our work move into glaucoma and depression.
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Our lab is focused on understanding palmitoylation, a post-translational modification of Ras (an oncogene implicated in ~30% of all cancers, and up to 90% in specific cancer types) involved in its localization to the plasma membrane where Ras elicits a majority of its activity.
My project focuses on understanding the regulation of Ras palmitoylation in three ways. Initially, I used a candidate based approach to screen for the enzyme responsible for Ras depalmitoylation. More recently, I have been screening mutants of the enzyme that palmitoylated Ras to see the effect of the mutations on activity, and finally, I will perform high-throughput inhibitor screens in an attempt to identify inhibitors of palmitoylation.