July 16, 2014: Chiharu's paper on phosphorylation of the tumor suppressor Lgl is published!
June 15, 2014: First year graduate student Kimberly Jones has joined the lab
May 28, 2014: Graduate student Jon Mauser has successfully completed his PhD defense!
Welcome to the Prehoda Lab in the Institute of Molecular Biology and Departments of Chemistry and Biology at the University of Oregon. We work on a fascinating biological question: how do cells make decisions? In other words, when a cell is confronted with a difficult situation, how does it decide what to do? A large number of diseases result from incorrect cellular decisions (e.g. the uncontrolled proliferation observed in cancer), so we hope that an increased understanding of this process will lead to improvements in human health. Many biological regulatory pathways are controlled by dynamic protein assemblies, so much of our efforts are directed at uncovering the physical basis of protein interaction-mediated control. We use diverse approaches in our research, ranging from biochemical and structural methods with purified proteins, to genetic and cell biological techniques with cultured cells and whole organisms.
Much of our recent research has focused on understanding stem cell divisions, as these divisions are very precisely regulated in response to their cellular environment (i.e. their "niche"). Because of their ability to generate differentiated cell types, there has been tremendous interest in the therapeutic potential of stem cells. Stem cells normally function during development to generate cellular diversity and in adult physiology for cellular homeostasis. The cell that is stained in the image to the left is called a neuroblast and these cells generate the central nervous system of the fruit fly Drosophila. After a typical neuroblast division, the apical daughter cell (the one at the top) will continue to be a neuroblast, but the basal cell (the bottom one) will become neurons. The key to this process is to ensure that the molecules stained green are partitioned into the apical cell, while the molecules stained blue become segregated into the basal cell. Each of these respective components specifies the fate that the daughter cell will assume once cytokinesis is complete. Thus, the neuroblast division is molecularly asymmetric and is a model system for understanding the molecular origins of differentiation. What leads to the separation of these components along the cell cortex, and how is the resulting axis of polarity coupled to the cellular processes that control positioning of the cleavage furrow? Answering these questions is leading us to new insights into the mechanisms by which protein interactions make up biological regulatory pathways.Find out more about what we do on the research page and you can find a list of our papers on the publications page.