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Research statement

The Meyer laboratory seeks to understand how human cells sense hormones, growth factors and stress and how they integrate and transduce these signals to make decisions to polarize, move or divide. We investigate these cellular regulatory systems by identifying the key signaling components and measuring when and where signaling occurs as we watch cells decide to move forward or enter the cell cycle. We have been intrigued by the near universal importance of locally acting Ca2+ and phosphoinositide lipid second messenger signals, Rho and Ras family small GTPases and protein kinases in controlling these decision processes. Our projects are focused on understanding the general principles of how signal transduction systems work which often requires the development of new experimental and analysis tools involving fluorescent microscopy, small molecule and light perturbations, systematic siRNA screens, bioinformatics, genomics and quantitative modeling of signaling pathways.


April 2015: Sean's paper is out in Nature Molecular Systems Biology !

Numerous molecular components have been identified that regulate the directed migration of eukaryotic cells toward sources of chemoattractant. However, how the components of this system are wired together to coordinate multiple aspects of the response, such as directionality, speed, and sensitivity to stimulus, remains poorly understood. Here we developed a method to shape chemoattractant gradients optically and analyze cellular chemotaxis responses of hundreds of living cells per well in 96‐well format by measuring speed changes and directional accuracy. We then systematically characterized migration and chemotaxis phenotypes for 285 siRNA perturbations. A key finding was that the G‐protein Giα subunit selectively controls the direction of migration while the receptor and Gβ subunit proportionally control both speed and direction. Furthermore, we demonstrate that neutrophils chemotax persistently in response to gradients of fMLF but only transiently in response to gradients of ATP. The method we introduce is applicable for diverse chemical cues and systematic perturbations, can be used to measure multiple cell migration and signaling parameters, and is compatible with low‐ and high‐resolution fluorescence microscopy.

February 2015: Gautam's paper is out in Cell Reports !

Functional links between genes can be predicted using phylogenetic profiling, by correlating the appearance and loss of homologs in subsets of species. However, effective genome-wide phylogenetic profiling has been hindered by the large fraction of human genes related to each other through historical duplication events. Here, we overcame this challenge by automatically profiling over 30,000 groups of homologous human genes (orthogroups) representing the entire protein-coding genome across 177 eukaryotic species (hOP profiles). By generating a full pairwise orthogroup phylogenetic co-occurrence matrix, we derive unbiased genome-wide predictions of functional modules (hOP modules). Our approach predicts functions for hundreds of poorly characterized genes. The results suggest evolutionary constraints that lead components of protein complexes and metabolic pathways to co-evolve while genes in signaling and transcriptional networks do not. As a proof of principle, we validated two subsets of candidates experimentally for their predicted link to the actin-nucleating WASH complex and cilia/basal body function. Check out the web server accompanying the paper

November 2014: A new postdoc joins the lab !

Damien Garbett joined the Meyer lab as a postdoctoral fellow. Welcome aboard Damien !

August 2014: Sean and Sabrina are opening their own labs !

Contratulations to Sean who got a position in UC Davis and to Sabrina who is opening her lab in UC Boulder. Good luck in your new ways! we will miss you.

November 2013: Kyuho's paper is out in Nature Methods !

Protein concentrations are often regulated by dynamic changes in translation rates. Nevertheless, it has been challenging to directly monitor changes in translation in living cells. We have developed a reporter system to measure real-time changes of translation rates in human or mouse individual cells by conjugating translation regulatory motifs to sequences encoding a nuclear targeted fluorescent protein and a controllable destabilization domain. Application of the method showed that individual cells undergo marked fluctuations in the translation rate of mRNAs whose 5′ terminal oligopyrimidine (5′ TOP) motif regulates the synthesis of ribosomal proteins. Furthermore, we show that small reductions in amino acid levels signal through different mTOR-dependent pathways to control TOP mRNA translation, whereas larger reductions in amino acid levels control translation through eIF2A. Our study demonstrates that dynamic measurements of single-cell activities of translation regulatory motifs can be used to identify and investigate fundamental principles of translation.

October 2013: Jia-Yun's paper is out in Molecular Cell !

Mammalian cells have a remarkable capacity to compensate for heterozygous gene loss or extra gene copies. One exception is Down syndrome (DS), where a third copy of chromosome 21 mediates neurogenesis defects and lowers the frequency of solid tumors. Here we combine live-cell imaging and single-cell analysis to show that increased dosage of chromosome 21-localized Dyrk1a steeply increases G1 cell cycle duration through direct phosphorylation and degradation of cyclin D1 (CycD1). DS-derived fibroblasts showed analogous cell cycle changes that were reversed by Dyrk1a inhibition. Furthermore, reducing Dyrk1a activity increased CycD1 expression to force a bifurcation, with one subpopulation of cells accelerating proliferation and the other arresting proliferation by costabilizing CycD1 and the CDK inhibitor p21. Thus, dosage of Dyrk1a repositions cells within a p21-CycD1 signaling map, directing each cell to either proliferate or to follow two distinct cell cycle exit pathways characterized by high or low CycD1 and p21 levels.

September 2013: Sabrina's paper is out in Cell !

Tissue homeostasis in metazoans is regulated by transitions of cells between quiescence and proliferation. The hallmark of proliferating populations is progression through the cell cycle, which is driven by cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) activity. Here, we introduce a live-cell sensor for CDK2 activity and unexpectedly found that proliferating cells bifurcate into two populations as they exit mitosis. Many cells immediately commit to the next cell cycle by building up CDK2 activity from an intermediate level, while other cells lack CDK2 activity and enter a transient state of quiescence. This bifurcation is directly controlled by the CDK inhibitor p21 and is regulated by mitogens during a restriction window at the end of the previous cell cycle. Thus, cells decide at the end of mitosis to either start the next cell cycle by immediately building up CDK2 activity or to enter a transient G0-like state by suppressing CDK2 activity.

Last modified Tuesday, 07-Jul-2015 12:02:48 PDT