Yue Chen, Assistant Professor
Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology & Biophysics
College of Biological Sciences
The Chen Lab at the University of Minnesota develops proteomics technologies to discover novel posttranslational modification pathways on histones and chromatin proteins. We also develop novel quantitative strategies to determine functionally significant signaling pathways and molecular mechanisms involved in epigenetic regulations. We are particularly interested in understanding how cell metabolism and cellular microenvironment regulate protein homeostasis and epigenetic gene expression through posttranslational modification pathways in the context of neuronal development and cancer.
Gunda Georg, Professor
Department of Medicinal Chemistry
College of Pharmacy
Professor Georg and her group have published over 200 scientific articles and are involved in the design, semisynthesis, total synthesis, and evaluation of biologically active agents. Current therapeutic areas include cancer, male and female non-hormonal contraception, cancer, and epilepsy. These projects require the development of synthetic methods, synthesis of natural products, and structure-activity studies aimed at improving the therapeutic efficacy of lead compounds, including natural products, and hits from high throughput screening. Interdisciplinary projects are a main focus in the Georg group, involving medicinal chemistry, biochemistry, screening, structure-based drug design, pharmacology, pharmaceutical chemistry and reproductive biology. Active collaboration exists between the Contraception Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, several research groups at the University of Minnesota, and around the country. Professor Georg is the PI of a NICHD U54 “Contraceptive Discovery, Development and Behavioral Research Center” that involves six institutions. She is the co-inventor of LusedraTM, which was marketed by Eisa Pharmaceuticals, of Minnelide, an anticancer agent in phase II clinical trials, and of Gamendazole, a male contraceptive agent in preclinical development.
My research program encompasses environmental exposures and genetic traits that increase cancer susceptibility and impact patient outcomes. Our current work is focused on understanding the role of inter-individual differences in immunity, as well as viral exposures, in cancer epidemiology. In addition, I am a co-leader of the Screening, Prevention, Etiology and Cancer Survivorship program in the Masonic Cancer Center.
Shujun Liu, Associate Professor
Cancer Epigenetics & Experimental Therapeutics
The Hormel Institute
Dr. Liu’s research programs focus on a translational approach to investigate the causes and the roles of receptor tyrosine kinases and epigenetics in cancer pathogenesis and drug resistance under normal physiological or obese conditions. He has authored more than 100 publications.
Epigenetic regulatory proteins control the process of heritable phenotypes beyond that which is encoded at the genomic level. Chemical probes for these proteins are in high demand for therapeutic regulation of disease and to understand new biology. Bromodomains are epigenetic protein modules that bind to acetyl groups on proteins including those of acetylated histones, helping to interpret or “read” the histone code. Since the first report of a nanomolar inhibitor of bromodomain Brd4 in 2010, 18 clinical trials have been initiated to test the efficacy of bromodomain inhibition in oncology. However, many other bromodomains lack specific chemical probes to validate their role in both health and disease. We have since applied our PrOF NMR method to three bromodomains, BrdT, BPTF, and Brd4, in several screening campaigns. As a new advance, we have started to study multiple bromodomains at once to develop selective inhibitors. See Bruker's online blog "The Resonance". Demonstrating our path, we recently discovered and synthesized the first small molecule inhibitor, which we named AU1, for BPTF to understand its role in regulating transcription. BPTF has recently been recognized as an oncogene in melanoma and colorectal cancer, and by providing a new chemical probe, we are establishing collaborative programs for studying this protein’s role in various cancers. A strong medicinal chemistry effort in our lab has now been established for improving on our leads for all three bromdomains.
Li-Na Wei, Professor
Department of Pharmacology
Dr. Wei's lab is interested in multiple regulatory pathways and underlying mechanisms in differentiation and function of neurons and adipocytes. Two principal signaling pathways are our targets of investigation: a) hormone (vitamin A and fatty acids) signaling pathways that involve nuclear receptors and coregulators to trigger chromatin remodeling, and b) extra-nuclear signaling pathways that regulate post-transcriptional events, specifically, mRNA transport and localized translation. Our experimental systems include cultures of primary neuron, adipocyte and embryonic stem/embryonal carcinoma cells, as well as genetic animal models. Our experimental methodologies include molecular, biochemical, cellular and genetic methods, as well as heavy uses of mass spec methodologies for proteomic investigation of critical regulatory components in these signaling pathways, such as nuclear receptors, coregulator RIP140, and new RNA binding proteins. Extending from studies of these basic biological problems, we are also interested in application of these studies in important diseases such as metabolic syndromes and neurological disorders related to, or caused by, abnormal lipid metabolism, mRNA transport and/or translation in neurons.