Faculty

Diane Barber, PhD, Professor
The Barber Lab aims to understand how chemical and mechanical cues such as growth factors, wounding or tensional forces regulate cell migration, actin cytoskeleton remodeling, and proliferation. We also study the role of these processes in cancer progression and metastasis. Our focus is determining how intracellular pH dynamics induced by extracellular cues control cell migration and proliferation, with recent projects including metabolic adaptation. Our studies from molecules to cells address questions on how changes in pH regulate protein conformations to determine activities, ligand-binding affinities, and stability, modulate signaling networks, and control normal and disease cell processes.

 

Katja Brückner, PhD, Associate Professor
The Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) has been identified as a functional component of hematopoietic microenvironments and other stem cell niches. However, it remains largely unknown how sensory neurons and their inputs direct hematopoiesis or immune responses. To address these questions at the cellular and molecular level, the Brückner Lab studies the role of the PNS as a microenvironment in hematopoiesis, using the hematopoietic pockets of the optically transparent Drosophila larva as a model system. The lab investigates constitutive and neuronal activity-dependent 'circuits' by which the PNS regulates hematopoiesis and immune responses.

 

Jeffrey Bush, PhD, Assistant Professor
Although craniofacial anomalies are among the most common congenital defects in humans, the underlying etiology is incompletely understood. By integrating mouse genetic approaches with proteomics, biochemistry, and cell biology, the Bush Lab investigates the signaling mechanisms that coordinate craniofacial morphogenesis and how this signaling control is disrupted in congenital craniofacial disease. One focus of the lab is Eph/ephrin signaling, a family of signaling molecules that regulates multiple aspects of craniofacial development.

 

Fred Chang, MD, PhD, Professor
The Chang Lab studies cell morphogenesis and cell division. We are interested in fundamental questions concerning spatial organization within a single cell: How do cellular components organize to form cells of a specific size and shape? How might cells sense their own shape and size? Topics include: cytokinesis, placement of the cell division plane, cell polarity, dynamics of microtubules and actin, biomechanics of cell morphogenesis, and sensing of cell shape and size. Many of our studies are on the simple rod-shaped fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

 

Rik Derynck, PhD, Professor
Transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) and members of the TGF-β family play key roles in development, cell physiology and disease. Research in the Derynck Lab is aimed at characterizing the signaling mechanisms that define the complex responses to TGF-β proteins, and to understand their roles in epithelial-mesenchymal transition.

 

Sophie Dumont, PhD, Assistant Professor
How does the cell integrate biochemical and mechanical processes to equally segregate its chromosomes when it divides? The Dumont Lab aims to understand how cellular machines (spindle, kinetochore) generate, detect, and respond to mechanical force to accurately segregate chromosomes, and how biochemical and mechanical information is integrated for cellular decision making. Ultimately, we hope to uncover the mechanical architecture of these cellular machines and their failure modes in disease states such as cancer.

 

Stephen Floor, PhD, Assistant Professor
The Floor Lab studies the mechanisms by which RNA impacts human gene expression in health and disease. RNA chaperones are a major focus of the lab, which remodel RNA structures and RNA-protein interactions. We use deep sequencing, molecular biology of purified proteins, and imaging approaches to define the in vitro and cellular mechanisms of RNA chaperones. Many DEAD-box RNA chaperones are genetically altered in cancers and other diseases. We study the molecular basis of such alterations using cancer cell lines and genetically engineered stem cell models, aiming to better understand human biology and nominate new therapeutic targets.

 

Andrei Goga, MD, PhD, Professor
The Goga Lab seeks to understand how specific oncogenes alter the cell cycle, miRNA and metabolic signaling pathways to drive tumorigenesis. We study how cancer signaling pathways are activated in breast and liver cancers and hematopoietic malignancies, amongst the most prevalent and deadly forms of human cancer. We are particularly focused on the MYC oncogene, the downstream pathways it activates, and synthetic-lethal strategies to target MYC overexpressing cancers. Using a variety of model systems we seek to develop anti-cancer therapeutics to selectively inhibit cancer signaling pathways.

 

Carol Gross, PhD, Professor
The Carol Gross Lab takes genetic, biochemical, and systems approaches to study regulatory mechanisms of E. coli stress responses, protein interactions in the bacterial transcription apparatus, and genome-wide control of gene expression.

 

Shingo Kajimura, PhD, Associate Professor
The main focus of the Kajimura Lab is to uncover the molecular circuits that control fat cell development and function. We employ a wide range of molecular biology and biochemical approaches together with mouse genetics to decode the transcriptional and epigenetic regulatory networks that govern fate determination of fat cells (white adipocytes and brown adipocytes) and energy homeostasis. We hope these studies have applications to the development of novel therapies for obesity, insulin resistance and metabolic diseases.

 

Sarah Knox, PhD, Assistant Professor
The Knox Lab is concerned with analyzing the cellular and molecular events underlying the formation of epithelial organs (organogenesis) and their regeneration after injury. We employ multiple tissues (e.g. salivary gland, pancreas, ocular organs) to test three fundamental biological questions: 1) how do peripheral nerves impact epithelial stem cell fate decisions; 2) what are the mechanisms by which neuronal signals pattern organ architecture; and 3) how do immune cells modulate nerve-mediated morphogenesis, repair and regeneration. Understanding the relationships between multiple cell types will lead to new approaches to regenerate damaged tissue and to create new organs.

 

Randall Kramer, PhD, Professor
The major goal of the Kramer Lab is to understand the mechanisms that regulate epithelial cancer progression and identify how tumor cells resist apoptotic insults and evolve into highly invasive variants. As tumors progress they lose epithelial features and dependency on intercellular contacts but gain fibroblastic features. We are currently testing the idea that as tumor cells advance to poorly differentiated mesenchymal-like cells, they shift to utilizing alternative signaling pathways forming aggressive variants with enhanced metastatic potential. These studies will lead to a better understanding of tumor progression that can be exploited for the development of novel therapeutic strategies for epithelial cancers.

 

Noelle L'Etoile, PhD, Associate Professor
The L'Etoile Lab investigates how neurons perceive and transmit information both in response to novel and persistent environmental cues. We use the nematode C. elegans because its neuronal circuitry is completely described, and exhibits robust plasticity. C. elegans also allows us to use powerful cell biological, genetic, behavioral, physiological and molecular techniques to study plasticity. For example, we discovered a pathway in which nuclear translocation of a kinase and small RNAs modify chromatin, which allows environmental cues to sculpt long-term behavior. Our research may inform understanding of normal processes such as learning and memory as well as elucidate what goes awry in disease states such as addiction.

 

Michael McMaster, PhD, Adjunct Professor
Michael McMaster is a developmental biologist and educator, and joined the UCSF faculty in 1994. Dr. McMaster is Director of the Biomedical Sciences stream with primary responsibility for the basic science curriculum in the first and second years of Dental School. He teaches gross anatomy, development, and neuroscience in the Dental, Medical and Graduate schools. Dr. McMaster has extensive expertise in medical education, particularly basic sciences as a foundation for clinical excellence. He is director of the School of Dentistry gross anatomy laboratory and has earned recognition for excellence in teaching. His research interests center on placental development, diseases of pregnancy and embryonic stem cell model systems for understanding the consequences of gestational exposures to environmental chemicals.

 

Lenore Pereira, PhD, Professor
The Pereira Lab studies the biology of human cytomegalovirus infection, the major viral cause of congenital birth defects in the U.S., at the uterine-placental interface. We are specifically interested (1) how humoral immunity suppresses virus replication and transplacental transmission, (2) patterns of cytotrophoblast infection resulting from spatially and differentially expressed receptors, (3) mechanisms whereby high-avidity neutralizing IgG and the neonatal Fc receptor suppress virus replication in chorionic villi, (4) dysregulated cell-cell and cell-matrix adhesion molecules in infected cytotrophoblasts, and (5) paracrine factors from infected cells that impair bystander cytotrophoblasts and endothelial cells.

 

Torsten Wittmann, PhD, Professor
The Wittmann Lab is interested in the mechanisms by which the microtubule cytoskeleton controls complex cell behaviors such as polarity, migration, and division. Specifically, we are analyzing the function and phosphoregulation of +TIPs, a diverse group of proteins that can specifically bind to the ends of growing microtubules, and are essential to link dynamic microtubule ends to other intracellular structures. We are employing high end fluorescent imaging methods, and are also developing novel tools to manipulate intracellular protein activities.