Research in the Ahmed Lab
Wnt Signaling in Development and Disease
Overview: In all metazoans, a small number of evolutionarily conserved proteins instruct the precisely orchestrated changes in cell proliferation and differentiation that drive the remarkable transformation of a single cell to a fully developed embryo. These proteins are the core components of signal transduction pathways, allowing one cell to communicate with its neighbors and to thereby direct and coordinate their behavior. As deregulation of the same proteins triggers many human cancers, we seek to elucidate their function and thus uncover opportunities for the development of targeted therapies for cancer.
A focus for our lab has been the function of the Adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) tumor suppressor and the beta-catenin oncogene in the Wnt/Wingless signal transduction pathway. Wnt signaling directs embryonic development and regulates stem cell biology in adult tissues. Inactivation of APC results in the aberrant activation of Wnt signaling, which triggers the development of nearly all colorectal cancers, and also drives other types of cancer. Thus, key components of the Wnt signaling pathway have emerged as promising targets for cancer treatment. We are investigating the function of APC, beta-catenin, and several new therapeutic targets in Wnt signaling in both a fruit fly Drosophila model and in colon cancer cells. We use techniques based in genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry, and confocal microscopy, focusing on the projects detailed below.