Cellular nutrient sensing in cancer and diabetes
Deborah Goberdhan graduated with a degree in Chemistry from St Catherine’s College, Oxford, before starting to study aspects of Developmental Genetics in the US. While there, she developed a passion for dissecting the complex functions of genes, both in the normal and the diseased state, using the fly as a model system. She worked on early patterning events in Bill Gelbart’s lab at Harvard and then on the regulation of neuronal survival in Hermann Steller’s lab at MIT. During her doctorate, she showed that the fly homologue of the major human tumour suppressor gene, PTEN, acts to block cell growth and antagonise the PI3K signaling pathway, highlighting the specific role of increased PI3K signalling in the growth of cancer cells.
Deborah has since established an independent research programme with funding from Cancer Research UK. Her group studies the molecular and cellular processes by which cells control their growth, and how the signalling mechanisms involved go awry in cancer and many other human pathologies. Much of the research in her group is focused on understanding the impact of local amino acid signalling on the response of cells to PI3K signaling, which involves the amino acid-sensitive protein complex, mTORC1. Based on the discovery that members of a class of molecules called the Proton-assisted Amino acid Transporters (PATs) have a unique and potent effect on PI3K and mTORC1 signalling, her group is now looking at how PATs and other amino acid transporters interplay as putative nutrient sensors to impact on these pathways in flies and cancer cells. This work already suggests that PATs might be particularly attractive targets to treat some human diseases involving defective PI3K and mTORC1 signalling.
Further information can be found at Goberdhan Research