The ability of cells to sense and respond to internal and external signals is essential for survival. Decades of research has led to the identification of many of the proteins that define how an organism responds to specific signals. Yet many proteins involved in key signaling events can trigger distinct, often mutually exclusive cell responses, depending on the nature and intensity of the activating signal. One way in which signaling networks achieve input/output specificity is by modulating the activity of signaling proteins over time. My lab develops fluorescent reporters to measure the activity of signaling proteins in single cells with high temporal resolution. Our goal is to unravel the mechanisms through which signaling pathways encode essential information regarding the nature and intensity of signals, and how they translate this information into an appropriate cellular response.
Our research is focused on two key areas within cell signaling, both of which hold great significance in the context of human diseases. First, we investigate how cancer cells respond to stress, with a focus on stresses induced by chemotherapy. We investigate how cells make critical decisions between survival and programmed cell death. Our ultimate aim is to devise innovative treatment strategies that drive cancer cells toward irreversible cell fates. Second, using gut organoids as a model system, we explore the fascinating mechanisms that enable cells within tissues to maintain precise ratios of diverse cell types, even during periods of rapid cell turnover. We seek to understand how these regulatory mechanisms become disrupted during the development of cancer, shedding light on the complex processes underlying carcinogenesis.