The precise control of apoptosis is vital to the survival of an organism. If this process is improperly regulated, developmental defects, cancer, neurodegeneration and premature aging can result. The molecular mechanisms for apoptotic regulation are remarkably well-conserved in function and sequence across the animal kingdom, and studies in model organisms have provided an immense amount of information relevant to human diseases related to cell death. I have uncovered a novel role for a conserved gene, dre-1/FBXO11, in controlling apoptosis in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. We have reason to suspect that this gene is important for the pathogenesis of human lymphoma. My thesis research project will involve investigating the mechanism of dre-1/FBXO11 action in the hope of improving our understanding of apoptotic regulation. A surprising fact in biology is that many cells in humans and other organisms make the decision to commit suicide. This is a normal process that helps produce a properly-developed organism at birth, helps prevent abnormal pre-cancerous cells from growing out of control, and helps produce immune cells that can fight infection. We would like to better understand how this decision is made in order to develop better treatments for cancer and autoimmune disease (in which cells do not die when they should) and neurodegeneration and aging (in which cells are lost that should survive).
|Chiorazzi, Michael; Rui, Lixin; Yang, Yandan et al. (2013) Related F-box proteins control cell death in Caenorhabditis elegans and human lymphoma. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 110:3943-8|