There are two major projects on going in my laboratory--the first is the investigation into signaling pathways of prostaglandins in human melanocytes and melanoma, and the second is the role of Plexin receptors in melanocyte and melanoma biology.
Melanocytes are pigment producing cells within the epidermis that are progenitor cells for a deadly cancer, melanoma. The production of melanin by melanocytes is a key function of melanocytes and provides photoprotection to the skin. Prostaglandins (PG) are lipid signaling molecules released by keratinocytes and melanocytes in response to ultraviolet irradiation. Our research focus is on defining signaling intermediates that mediate the effect of the two primary PG in the skin, PGE2 & PGF2??
on melanocyte dendrite extension, growth and pigment production. Our laboratory is also investigating the role of sempahorins and their receptors on melanocyte growth, differentiation, and progression to melanoma. Semaphorins are membrane bound and secreted proteins involved in neuronal pathfinding, that we have recently shown to be involved in melanocyte adhesion and dendrite formation. Our particular focus is on Semaphorin 7A and Semaphorin 4D, and their cognate receptors Plexin C1 and Plexin B1, which are lost during progression of melanocytes to melanoma. Integration of signaling intermediates with biologic functions such as proliferation, apoptosis and migration, allow us to dissect the function of PG and semaphorins in melanocyte, and to link signaling by specific receptors to downstream biologic targets important for skin pigmentation and melanoma progression.