The Molecular/Cellular-Based Systems and Model Organisms (MCSMO) Team is led by Drs. Heather Patisaul and Philip Sannes

The Molecular/Cellular-Based Systems and Model Organisms (MCSMO) Team utilizes cutting-edge genetic/molecular/cellular-based systems and powerful vertebrate and invertebrate model organisms to conduct fundamental research to define mechanisms by which environmental exposures promote disease. These model organisms include Drosophila, Daphnia, Saccharomyces cerevisiae,genetically engineered mice, collaborative cross mice, prairie voles, zebrafish, medaka, and some domestic species. This Team brings together geneticists, behavioral, molecular, cellular and development biologists, toxicologists, veterinary pathologists, neurobiologists, endocrinologists, and a physicist.

Kenneth B. Adler Michael A. Cowley Jason M. Haugh Krista A. McCoy M. Ricardo Richardson Jeffrey A. Yoder
Belinda Akpa Jamie C. DeWitt Randy L. Jirtle M. Christine McGahan Emile Rissman Shanshan Zhou
Robert R.H. Anholt David C. Dorman Sophia Kathariou John Meitzen Marcelo L. Rodriguez-Puebla
David L. Aylor Zuzana Drobna Parminder Kaur Freya Mowat Philip L. Sannes
Marine Baptissart Jodie M. Fleming Brita Kilburg-Basnyat Nanette Nascone-Yoder Heather Shive
Scott Belcher H. Troy Ghashghaei Seth W. Kullman Jun Ninomiya-Tsuji David Skaar
James C. Bonner John R. Godwin Gerald A. LeBlanc Xiaoping Pan Robert C. Smart
Matthew Breen Kymberly Gowdy Keith E. Linder Heather B. Patisaul Debra Tokarz
Kori L. Brewer Delores Grant Trudy F. C. Mackay Antonio R. Planchart Yoshiaki Tsuji
David B. Buchwalter Jonathan Hall Carolyn J. Mattingly Sky Reece Hong Wang

 

Adler, Kenneth B.

Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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Research in the Adler Lab centers around the molecule known as MARCKS (Myristoylated Alanine-Rich C Kinase Substrate). This lab was the first to develop a means to inhibit MARCKS’ function in cells, and we have found that MARCKS is involved integrally in several critical cell functions; in fact, overactivity or overexpression of MARCKS is associated with several disease states. A drug based on basic research in this laboratory has been developed and tested in human patients with inflammatory airway disease. Additional pre-clinical studies indicate that inhibition of MARCKS may be a therapeutic target in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome as well as cancer metastasis, and the current direction of the lab is towards defining the role of MARCKS in these disease areas.

 

 Akpa_Belinda2Akpa, Belinda

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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My group develops mathematical models to connect molecular events to dynamic physiological outcomes. Current areas of interest include: host-pathogen interactions, cardiovascular systems pharmacology, and molecular and systems toxicology.

 

Anholt_Home9801  Anholt, Robert R. H.

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Research in my laboratory focuses on (1) dissecting the genetic architecture of behavior in Drosophila melanogaster, including olfactory behavior, startle behavior, phototaxis, aggression and locomotion; (2) developing Drosophila as a genetic model for identifying ensembles of genes that predispose to human disorders, including alcohol related phenotypes and ocular hypertension (a prelude to primary open angle glaucoma) with follow-up association studies in human populations; (3) understanding the genetic underpinnings of phenotypic plasticity, including exposure to oxidative stress and heavy metals; and, (4) determining the functions of the olfactomedin gene family.

 

Aylor, David L.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our lab’s core goal is to identify genetic variants that influence complex traits, genome function, and environmental response. My work has been focused on developing new systems genetics approaches to accomplish that goal. Systems genetics integrates modern high-throughput molecular biology with classical complex trait analysis by considering molecular profiles (such as mRNA abundance) alongside clinical and developmental traits. Current projects in the Aylor lab focus on 1) genetic susceptibility to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a drug that caused infertility and vaginal cancer in some adults who were exposed prenatally; 2) genetic mechanisms of hybrid male sterility in mice; and 3) identifying gene regulatory elements that vary between mouse strains.

 

BaptissartBaptissart, Marine

Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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I completed my PhD in Molecular Biology and Physiology at Blaise-Pascal University, France, where I defined bile acids as reprotoxic molecules affecting testicular functions and spermatozoa integrity in the pathophysiological context of liver diseases. Today, as a Postdoctoral Research Scholar under the supervision of Dr. Michael Cowley, my research aims to test whether an epigenetic event underlies the molecular mechanisms by which early maternal high-fat-diet predisposes offspring to adult metabolic disorders.

 

 Belcher, Scott

Research Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Bonner, James C.

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our goal is to explore and elucidate mechanisms of lung disease pathogenesis (asthma, fibrosis, cancer) caused by environmental or occupational exposure to engineered nanomaterials. We also seek to identify physical and chemical properties of nanomaterials that trigger fibrotic or allergic reactions in the lung in order to provide information for the design of safer products containing nanomaterials. Our research provides fundamental information for determining the potential human health risks of emerging nanotechnologies, which will be essential for the design of safe nanotechnologies in the future.

 

Breen, Matthew

Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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Dr. Matthew Breen’s research focuses on genomics, genome mapping and the comparative aspects of canine cancer. In addition his lab is using high throughput molecular cytogenetics for anchoring emerging genome assemblies and for evaluating the changes to genome structure that occur during speciation. The lab is also developing new molecular assays for diagnostic and prognostic use in veterinary medicine.

 

Brewer, Kori L.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, ECU

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One focus area in our lab is developing pre-clinical models of the neurological and metabolic consequences of both acute and chronic exposure to commonly used environmental/agricultural agents such as pesticides. The goal is to provide model organisms that are representative of the human condition and can, therefore be used to explore the mechanisms underlying the effects of and to test interventions for the secondary consequences of these types of exposures.

 

Buchwalter, David B.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Research in the Buchwalter lab focuses on comparative and ecological physiology. We are particularly interested in issues that affect water quality (e.g. trace metals, salinity and thermal stress) and differentially affect the organisms that inhabit freshwater ecosystems. Our focus on aquatic macroinvertebrates (insects) is based on the ecological importance and widespread use these  organisms in monitoring programs. Our work relies heavily upon the use of radioisotopic tracers to examine osmoregulatory processes and trace element bioaccumulation. Respirometry, RT-qPCR and biochemical measures are routinely used in our work.

 

Cowley, Michael A.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our laboratory studies how environmental exposures during early life affect health and disease in adulthood. Using the mouse as a model, we investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying these programming effects, focusing particularly on epigenetic changes that occur in response to an exposure. We employ high-throughput techniques (next generation sequencing) to identify early epigenetic and transcriptomic changes, and aim to understand the processes through which these lead to an altered phenotype in later life.

 

DeWitt, Jamie C.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, ECU

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Our environmental developmental neuroimmunotoxicology research program explores relationships between biological organisms and their developmental responses after exposure to environmental toxicants. Early life exposure to a variety of agents impacts the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, resulting in altered development that may present as diseases or disorders in childhood or much later in life. We are particularly interested in how impacts to the immune system lead to downstream effects on the nervous system and our current research efforts target autism spectrum disorders and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Dorman, David C.

Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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The primary objective of my research is to provide a refined understanding of potential toxicity in humans from exposure to chemicals. My research interests have included evaluation of the effect of chemicals on neonates and other potentially sensitive subpopulations; examination of chemically-induced effects on behavior and cognitive development; and the application of dosimetry modeling and other pharmacokinetic methods to chemical risk assessment. We have worked with a wide range of chemicals including manganese, tungsten, the organophosphate fenitrothion, di-butyl phthalate, acrolein, acetaldehyde, and hydrogen sulfide.

 

zuzanaDrobna, Zuzana

Research Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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My research focus is to study the effects of gestational exposure to environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (e.g., phthalates, bisphenols, pesticides, and heavy metals) on behavior, brain, and germ cells in mouse model and to determine whether altered behavioral phenotypes can be transmitted to the next generation. We explore epigenetic changes associated with phenotypic effects resulting from environmental exposures in critical stages of development that are extremely sensitive to perturbation by substances with hormone-like activity and could cause risk of diseases later in life. I am also interested in the role of nutrients in modification of disrupted epigenetic patterns and mitigation of health outcomes associated with prenatal and early-life exposure to environmental contaminants and endocrine-disrupting chemicals in population and animal studies.

 

Fleming2Fleming, Jodie M.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, NCCU

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The overall goal of our lab is to characterize the role of the tissue microenvironment on the behavior and function of normal mammary cells, as well as determine its role in the development and progression of breast cancer. Our program focuses on the early initiating/promoting factors from the microenvironment, including dietary factors and environmental toxins, and how these factors lead to differences in tumor phenotype. Our approach uses both observation and experimental types of data to integrate the burgeoning field of tumor microenvironment with health disparities research.

 

Ghashghaei, H. Troy

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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Projects in our laboratory are focused on developmental neurobiology: 1. Development and aging of the adult stem cells and their ependymal niche in the forebrain. We use mouse genetics in combination with molecular, biochemical, and cell biological approaches to address fundamental questions regarding the functional significance of ependymal cells during development and aging. 2. Role of cell cycle regulators in symmetric and asymmetric divisions of neural stem cells in the developing and postnatal brain. We use mouse genetics, biochemical assays, and state-of-the-art imaging tools to understand mechanisms that regulate the decision of neural stem cells to divide symmetrically or asymmetrical in the embryonic and postnatal stem cell niches.

 

Godwin, John R.

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our laboratory studies the neural, endocrine, and genomics bases of behavior, sex determination, and stress coping. We use both fish and mouse models and a range of approaches to link events at the molecular level to important aspects of organism function. The goals of these projects are to improve understanding of basic mechanisms of development and adult function as well as address health challenges in the areas of anxiety and stress-related illness.

 

Gowdy, Kymberly

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, ECU

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Our lungs are constantly being challenged by environmental exposures (air pollutants, particulate matter, noxious gases, allergens, viruses, bacteria, etc). The central focus of our research is to explore and identify novel mechanisms by which the environment can modify pulmonary innate and adaptive immune responses. We have a great interest to understand how environmental exposures can alter the host defense response of the lung making it more susceptible to infection.

 

 Grant, Delores

Professor, Dept. of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, NCCU

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A long term goal of our laboratory is to delineate the significance of genetic risk factors in the development and etiology of prostate and ovarian cancer in multiethnic populations. Together with my collaborators at NCCU, UNC-CH, DUMC, and NIEHS/NIH, we have employed genomics, epidemiological and functional approaches to identify and study biomarkers that impact susceptibility to disease and environmental response to toxins. We have focused on genes from the drug metabolizing enzyme super family UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) which play an important role in steroid hormone and xenobiotic metabolism. Studies of DNA sequence variants of the UGT2B and UGT2A subfamilies show suggestive associations with risk of prostate and ovarian cancer in individuals of African ancestry. We have developed a null UGT2 mouse models and now stand ready to collaborate with scientists in the CHHE at NCSU to determine the translational significance of variant UGT2 alleles and their consequences in prostate and ovarian cancer health disparities.

 

Hall, Jonathan

Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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In order to maintain genomic integrity and prevent cancer, cells must respond to DNA damage by engaging the DNA damage. We use a combination of cellular-based systems and genetically engineered mouse models to identify and characterize the genes/signaling pathways that are determinants of susceptibility to skin cancer caused by solar UVB radiation.  We are interested  the roles of the basic leucine zipper transcription factors, CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins (C/EBPs) and long noncoding RNA, in the UVB-induced DNA damage response involving cell cycle arrest and apoptosis, the maintenance of genomic integrity as well as delineation of the mechanisms of their oncogenic and tumor suppressor functions.

 

haugh2Haugh, Jason M.

Professor, Dept. of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

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Dr. Haugh’s laboratory has been among those to pioneer the synthesis of quantitative experiments and modeling to study signal transduction in mammalian cells. Since the lab’s inception, their approach has combined biochemical measurements, live-cell fluorescence microscopy, and computational modeling to elucidate signaling mechanisms by analyzing their kinetics and spatial organization in cells. The systems studied include: regulation of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase, Ras/extracellular signal-regulated kinase, and phospholipase C pathways mediated by receptor tyrosine kinases, and crosstalk between these pathways; dynamic organization of multi-molecular complexes at cell membranes; signaling mediated by cytokine and chemokine receptors in immune cells; and integration of adhesion, signaling, and cytoskeletal dynamics that direct cell migration.

 

Jirtle, Randy L.

Adjunct Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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My research interests are in epigenetics, genomic imprinting, and the fetal origins of disease susceptibility. My lab identified the first imprinted tumor suppressor gene, IGF2R, and showed that its inactivation increases tumor resistance to radiotherapy.  We discovered a novel imprinted domain at human 14q32, and identified the Callipyge or ‘beautiful buttocks’ locus in the homologous region of sheep. The lab subsequently traced the mammalian origin of genomic imprinting from monotremes to placental mammals. These studies provided the crucial data that allowed my lab to complete the first genome-wide mapping of human imprinted genes using a bioinformatic approach.

 

Kathariou, Sophia

Professor, Dept. of Food, Bioprocessing & Nutrition Sciences

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The research in Sophie Kathariou’s lab focuses on the genetics, adaptations and ecology of bacterial  foodborne and waterborne pathogens, especially Listeria and Campylobacter.  We are investigating mechanisms that these agents employ for environmental persistence and transmission and are increasingly assessing these processes in microbiome  contexts whether for water, soil or the animal gut.  Genetic systems of  special interest include those mediating resistance to heavy metals, disinfectants and antibiotics.   Our objective is to integrate our lab’s findings with rapidly increasing datasets of whole genome sequences, thus helping to elucidate pathogen transmission trajectories and evolution.

 

Kaur, Parminder

Research Assistant Professor, Dept of Physics

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My research aims at developing cutting-edge imaging and force techniques for investigating biomolecules to answer critical biological questions. I have through my research contributed to a diverse range of topics including DNA structure, protein-DNA interactions, epigenetic regulation, and live cell imaging. The main focus of my current research is to elucidate the molecular mechanism underlying the replication of the mitochondrial DNA and telomere maintenance pathways at the single-molecule level and studying how the defects in mitochondrial replication machinery contribute towards various diseases. The grand challenge in the AFM research field is to differentiate biological molecules in AFM images. To meet this challenge, I addressed the drawbacks of recognition AFM imaging and force spectroscopy by simultaneously imaging the topography and the functionality using cantilevers modified with antibodies. More recently, we have developed the DREEM imaging technique in collaboration with the Erie group at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is capable of detecting the paths of both ds- and ss-DNA in protein-DNA complexes. I am currently managing multidisciplinary projects through collaborations as well individually pertaining to studying genome and mitochondrial maintenance pathways at the single-molecule level.

 

Kilburg-Basnyat, Brita

Postdoctoral Scholar, Dept. of Pharmacology and Toxicology, ECU

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I completed my PhD in Human Toxicology at the University of Iowa. Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Scholar in the laboratory of Dr. Kymberly Gowdy at East Carolina University. The goals of my research is to investigate the novel mechanisms through which environmental exposures, including ozone, contribute to lung and systemic inflammation and vascular dysfunction.

 

Kullman, Seth W.

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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The Kullman laboratory is particularly interested in neural and endocrine pathways that govern critical steps of embryonic development. Much of our work is focused on the role of nuclear receptors and ligand activated transcription factors that regulate key organizational pathways during embryogenesis. A major emphasis of the Kullman laboratory is the application of small aquarium fish models (zebrafish, medaka ) to establish developmental bases of adult disease. Overall, the laboratory is geared towards facilitating a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between chemical-receptor interactions, resultant pleotropic effects and onset and progression of disease etiology.

 

LeBlanc, Gerald A.

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Dr. LeBlanc maintains an active research program in environmental endocrine toxicology.  His research involves elucidating processes that contribute to the endocrine regulation of reproduction and development and their disruption by environmental agents;  deciphering pathways through which environmental cues signal reproductive and developmental events; and developing mathematical models that predict population-level outcomes of endocrine disruption.

 

Linder, Keith E.

Clinical Associate Professor, Dept. of Population Health and Pathobiology

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I direct the Comparative Pathology Core in the Center for Human Heath and the Environment and my goal is to provide collaborative pathology support to CHHE scientists to utilize the best animal model systems to study environmental health problems. As a board certified veterinary pathologist, I am interested to study whole animal systems and to understand multi-organ impacts of disease, especially in comparative animal models.  My focus is skin disease research and I have extensive experience in the pathology of animal models of skin disease and of naturally occurring animal skin diseases, including those with human counterparts.

 

Mackay, Trudy F. C.

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Work in the Mackay laboratory focuses on understanding the genetic and environmental factors affecting variation in quantitative traits, using Drosophila as a model system. Her laboratory seeks to identify the genetic loci at which segregating and mutational variation occurs, allelic effects and environmental sensitivities, and the causal molecular variants. Her research utilizes mutagenesis to identify candidate genes and pathways, genome wide association mapping in populations with complete DNA sequences to identify alleles segregating in nature, and systems genetics analyses to provide biological context and identify transcriptional and genetic networks affecting complex traits.

 

Mattingly, Carolyn J.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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The goal of my research program is to improve understanding about environmental influences on human health and disease using different approaches including: development of the publicly available Comparative Toxicogenomics Database and using the zebrafish model to understand how environmental exposures perturb vertebrate development.

 

McCoyMcCoy, Krista A.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, ECU

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My research aims to understand how environmental contaminants influence sexually dimorphic development, physiology, and behavior, and to devise ways to reduce the incidence of these disorders in wildlife and humans. I use an integrative systems approach that combines field and laboratory methods to investigate the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) across multiple levels of biological organization—from molecules to populations. I ask questions that are conceptually motivated so that my work is general and informative to diverse scientific fields including development, physiology, evolution, ecology, conservation biology, and medicine.

 

McGahan, M. Christine

Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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The main area of research in the McGahan laboratory has been the study of iron metabolism in the eye. The correct balance of iron in all tissues is tightly regulated so that this essential element is present in adequate quantities for normal metabolism but is not present in excess as that could result in oxidative damage to tissues. Most diseases of the lens (cataract) and retina (degeneration) have a component of iron dysregulation. Our laboratory is focused on the determination of how iron movement into and out of the eye is regulated and how ocular tissues metabolize and store this element. This research has been funded continuously by the National Eye Institute for 33 years.

 

Meitzen, John

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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We study how neuromodulators change neuron function, especially within the context of sex differences. We particularly focus upon the actions of steroid sex hormones such as estradiol, and a brain region called the striatum. In the lab, we combine multiple approaches, with a strong emphasis on electrophysiological techniques.

 

mowat_freyaMowat, Freya

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Clinical Sciences

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The Mowat lab studies diseases of the light-sensitive retina in the eye. Our current research focuses include 1. The pathogenesis of spontaneous immune-mediated retinal disease in dogs (a disease called sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome/SARDS). 2. The effect of oxidative damage on the canine central retina as a method to study the human foveomacular susceptibility to diseases such as age-related macular degeneration 3. We are also studying a suspected X-linked retinal degeneration seen in a population of North Carolina red wolves.

 

Nascone-Yoder, Nanette

Associate Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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The overall goal of our lab is to uncover the mechanisms of organ morphogenesis and the underlying genetic and environmental factors that lead to birth defects. One focus area is to elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which exposure to organophosphates perturbs the morphogenesis of the digestive tract via inhibition of acetylcholinesterase. We also employ high-throughput genome wide profiling strategies, such as next generation sequencing, in emerging amphibian models, to identify key genes that impact the development of chemically-induced organ malformations.

 

Ninomiya-Tsuji, Jun

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Inflammation is the first line of defense system, which protects humans from variety of exogenous insults including environmental stressors.  However, excess or sustained exposure to stressors induces unregulated inflammation and cell death, which are the major mechanisms by which environmental stressors cause diseases such as chronic inflammatory diseases and cancers.  Our research focuses on the intracellular signal transduction pathway that is commonly activated by many types of environmental stressors and leads to inflammation and cell death depending on cellular contexts.  Our goal is to understand how stressor-induced inflammation and cell death are regulated at molecular levels.

 

Pan, Xiaoping

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biology, ECU

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The research in the Pan Lab investigates the toxicological mode of action of various environmental substances and materials including crude oil-dispersant mixture and metallic nanoparticles, etc. The model organisms Caenorhabditis elegans and Rattus norvegicus are used to identify and characterize genetic pathways underlying reproductive toxicity, with a particular interest in the role of small noncoding RNAs in gene regulation and stress response. We are also interested in developing C. elegans as a time and cost-efficient non-mammalian model in toxicity screening and risk assessment.

 

Patisaul, Heather B.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our laboratory examines how endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) impact sexually dimorphic neuroendocrine pathways and behaviors. We are particularly interested in how developmental exposures can alter hormone-dependent pathways and explore this using a variety of animal models including rats, mice and voles.  Our ongoing research is investigating the mechanisms by which early life exposure to EDCs including BPA and fire retardants alter social behaviors associted with mental health disorders such as autism.

 

Planchart, Antonio R.

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Research in the Planchart lab combines high throughput techniques, including proteomics and transcriptomics, to understand how environmental factors affect vertebrate embryonic development. We are focused on identifying genetic modifiers of craniofacial development that can be modulated by changes in the environment during embryogenesis. Specifically, we are interested in discovering regulatory genes that confer phenotypic plasticity, which buffer an organism from changes in its environment that could drastically alter its developmental program if left unchecked.

 

Reece, Sky

Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physiology, ECU

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My interests are to understand how environmental exposures to ozone, allergens, and nanoparticles can lead to immune mediated lung damage and ultimately compromised pulmonary function.  The main focus of my research is to identify novel molecular and cellular mechanisms involved in the immune responses following environmental exposure which lead to lung injury.  By understanding these novel mechanisms, I will be able to identify new strategies for the treatment of environmentally mediated diseases through new therapeutic targets.

 

Richardson, M. Ricardo

Professor, Dept. of Biology, NCCU

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Dr. Richardson is the GlaxoSmithKline Professor of Biology and Director of the Cancer Research Program at the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/Biotechnology Research Institute (JLC-BBRI), North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Richardson’s current research interest is on interleukin-8 (IL-8/CXCL8) receptors activation and regulation.  As the Director of the Julius L. Chambers Biomedical/BioteJLC-BBRI Cancer Research Program in partnership with the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Dr. Richardson supervises a team of principal investigators focusing on prostate, breast, oral, esophagus, ovarian and lung cancer, as well as community outreach and student training.

 

Rissman, Emilie

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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The Rissman lab is interested in how the environment changes brain and behavior via short- and long-term epigenetic modifications.  We manipulate the environment by exposure to endocrine disrupting compounds, mainly bisphenol A.  Pregnant mice are exposed to human-relevant doses delivered in food that they consumed voluntarily; we are also developing a similar model to expose sires.  We test direct and trans-generational offspring for both social and cognitive behaviors and examine gene expression in brain.

 

Rodriguez-Puebla, Marcelo L.

Associate Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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During the past two decades, a vast body of literature has illustrated the relevance of cell cycle deregulation in human cancer. The overall goal of our laboratory is to study the cell-cycle regulation in mouse models that mimic human cancer. Our interests are to determine, 1) How deregulation of the cell-cycle controllers CDKs (cyclin-dependent kinases) affect tumor initiation and malignant progression. 2) Define the molecular mechanisms governing gene expression upon CDK/DNA interaction. 3) How the core of the cell-cycle responds during tumor initiation in epithelial cells.

 

Sannes, Philip L.

Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor, Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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We are interested in the mechanisms that control cellular responses to injury in the lung.  This involves the proliferation and differentiation of specific stem cell populations which modulate repair processes ranging from normal cell turnover to non-resolving tissue fibrosis. The basic information derived from our studies impact on our understanding of lung responses to environmentally borne agents/exposures, and the development of clinical approaches for preventing and/or treating irreversible lung damage.

 

Shive, Heather

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Population, Health, and Pathobiology

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Cancers develop a broad spectrum of genetic disruptions, and it is often difficult to identify changes that contribute to tumor development. The zebrafish model (Danio rerio) is a powerful tool for analyzing genetic contributors to cancer risk: zebrafish exhibit conserved genetic susceptibility to cancer, are highly amenable to genetic manipulation, and can be analyzed in large numbers. The long-term goal of my research program is to investigate genetic mediators of carcinogenesis with the zebrafish model. This research will additionally incorporate environmental and toxicologic factors that may act in synergy with genetic factors to influence cancer risk.

 

Skaar, David

Research Assistant Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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Our interests are to determine how environmental exposures affect human health through epigenetic modifications, including DNA methylation and histone modifications that can alter gene expression, affecting cellular differential and development. We are interested in both short-term effects, related to acute toxicity, and long-term effects, that can have outcomes years after exposure, including epigenetic modifications heritable across generations. The plasticity of the epigenome provides both a target susceptible to insult, and a possibility for disease prevention, by protection from epigenetic alterations, and intervention by reversal of alterations. By determining epigenetic markers and mechanisms for the effects of environmental exposures, tools for determining risks of exposure, means of treatment, and assessment of intervention efficacy.

 

Smart, Robert C.

William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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The research in the Smart Lab involves the identification and characterization of genes/signaling pathways that are determinants of susceptibility to cancer, particularly as it relates to gene-environment interactions.  We utilize genetic/molecular/cellular-based systems and powerful genetically engineered mouse models to define mechanisms by which environmental stressors induce cancer.  We are especially interested in how cells respond to DNA damage to maintain genomic integrity and the role of the basic leucine zipper transcription factors, CCAAT/enhancer binding proteins (C/EBPs) and long noncoding RNAs in this process.

 

Tokarz, Debra

Comparative Veterinary Pathologist, Dept. of Population Health and Pathobiology

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Vertebrate animal models provide a powerful tool for elucidating complex biological processes, but each species and strain comes with their own advantages, disadvantages, and unique pathological responses. By combining my research and pathology training, my goal as a comparative pathologist is to help Center members effectively utilize vertebrate animal models to answer their research questions by aiding in experimental design, analysis and interpretation. My personal research interests are to understand the pathology of natural and experimental animal models of disease, particularly as they relate to the nervous system.

 

Tsuji, Yoshiaki

Professor, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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The core research project is to understand the molecular regulatory mechanism of antioxidant detoxification genes, in particular the human ferritin gene that encodes the major cytoplasmic iron storage protein, under the exposure of environmental chemicals and toxicants such as arsenic. Through our ferritin study, we are also interested in the regulation of iron metabolism in normal and disease conditions. Our ongoing projects are branches and new avenues from the core research projects, including microRNA and gene regulation, histone modifications and gene transcription, the Nrf2-ARE signaling pathway, the novel HIPK-CREB/ATF1 signaling pathway under genotoxic and oxidative stress, and the p66Shc longevity gene and mitochondrial oxidative stress and neurodegeneration.

 

Wang, Hong

Assistant Professor, Dept. of Physics

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A main focus of the Wang laboratory in the Physics Department is to use a broad range of biochemical and biophysical assays, including single-molecule atomic force microscopy (AFM) and fluorescence imaging, to study the structure and dynamics of proteins involved in telomere maintenance and DNA repair. The cutting-edge new techniques that we developed during these studies, including a unique DNA stretching method for single-molecule fluorescence imaging and quantum dot labeling of proteins, have uncovered how nucleotide excision repair proteins scan DNA for damage and different DNA damage search modes used by these proteins. Currently, we are especially interested in how DNA lesions affect the DNA binding dynamics of telomere binding proteins and the interplay between telomere binding proteins and DNA repair proteins.

 

Yoder, Jeffrey A.

Associate Professor, Dept. of  Molecular Biomedical Sciences

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Three goals of our laboratory are to 1) evaluate how exposure to environmental agents influences immune function, 2) identify novel genetic mediators of innate immunity and 3) develop models for the evolution of innate immune receptors. Nearly all of our research begins with the experimentally amenable zebrafish as a model vertebrate species with the goal of better understanding human immune function and the evolution of immune genes.

 

Zhou, Shanshan

Research Associate, Dept. of Biological Sciences

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My research interests focus on environmental influences on quantitative morphological, physiological and behavioral traits at genomic and epigenomic levels, using Drosophila melanogaster as a model. I would like to address the global question of which genes and gene networks interact with the environment to produce distinct phenotypes and how genetic architectures in natural populations determine variation in genome-environment interactions using systems genetics approaches.