Associate Professor, Eppley Institute
Courtesy Appointment - Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
PhD Biochemistry, 1991, Université de Montréal, Montréal, CANADA
BSc Biochemistry, 1984, Université de Montréal, Montréal, CANADA
"My laboratory is focused on two separate aspects of cancer research: telomere biology and pancreatic cancer. A common theme to both areas is the enzyme telomerase, its role in cancer development and tissue homeostasis. Telomerase is responsible for the maintenance of telomeres, specialized structures that cap the ends of chromosomes. Because most somatic human cells lack telomerase, telomeres shorten each time cells divide and this shortening acts as mitotic clock that limits cellular lifespan. Human telomeres are made of TTAGGG DNA repeats that serve as anchors for the recruitment of the DNA-binding proteins TRF1, TRF2, and POT1. Through protein-protein interactions, these factors recruit a multitude of other proteins to telomeres, with which they form a large DNA/protein capping complex. The integrity of this complex is vital to the survival and proliferation of human cells, but is compromised by the shortening of the telomeres that normally occurs during the aging process. This obstacle to unlimited lifespan is almost always bypassed during cancer development, most frequently by the aberrant re-expression of telomerase. My laboratory seeks to understand the role played by telomerase in the development of malignancies, and more specifically its synergy with other oncogenic insults. A second area of interest pertains to the structure of human telomeres and how changes in this structure can affect the proliferation and survival of human cells, both normal and cancerous. Current projects are focused on the biochemical properties of TRF2 and POT1; their interactions with DNA and proteins, novel activities, structure-function relationships, and impacts on telomere structure."