LABORATORY OF MOLECULAR THERAPEUTICS​

RESEARCH FOCUS

ELUCIDATING THE ROLE OF PI4,5P2 SIGNALING NETWORKS IN CELL MIGRATION AND CANCER METASTASIS

We are interested in how signaling networks control normal cell migration and cancer cell metastasis. Cell migration is an essential part of many normal biological processes, including wound healing, the immune response, and embryonic development. Cell migration is also what drives the spread of cancer and a better understanding of this process is essential for improving the treatment of cancer patients and patient survival. Intricate molecular communication networks have evolved to control these processes.

LAB MEMBERS

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DR. JEANNETTE KUNZ

Principal Investigator

  • PhD in Biochemistry, University of Basel, Switzerland

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DR. ALTYNAI ADILBAYEVA

Postdoctoral researcher

  • PhD in Biological Chemistry, University of Stavanger, Norway

  • MSc in Biotechnology, University of Essex, UK

  • BSc in Environmental Biology, Kazakh National University, Kazakhstan

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ALTYNBEK ZHUBANCHALIYEV

Research Assistant

  • MSc in Biology, Eurasian National University, Kazakhstan

  • BSc in Biological Sciences, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

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LIMARA MANARBEK

Research Assistant

  • MSc in Biological Sciences, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

  • BSc in Biological Sciences, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

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AIGUL SHARIP

Research Assistant

  • MSc in Biological Sciences, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

  • BSc in Biological Sciences, Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan

LAB ALUMNI

SABINA MURZHAKHMETOVA

Research Assistant

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AIDANA SHERYAZDANOVA

Master student

Accepted to the PhD program at VIB-KU Leuven in Belgium

ANEL TURGAMBAYEVA

Master Student

Accepted to the MSc program at the Brock University in Canada

ZHIBEK KENESKHANOVA

Master Student

Accepted to the Cell2Cell international network in Munich.

JANA MACH

Research Assistant

Postdoctoral scholar at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in Germany

ULYSSES SCHMID

Research Assistant

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ZHANELYA BAIDUISEN

Research Assistant

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MAIN PUBLICATIONS

Frontiers in Immunology, 2019

Background: The purpose of this study was to determine whether plasma levels of the collagen triple helix repeat containing 1 (CTHRC1) protein can serve as a blood-based biomarker for improved diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients and monitoring of RA disease activity.

Methods: We measured levels of CTHRC1 in the plasma of patients diagnosed with RA, osteoarthritis (OA), reactive arthritis (ReA), as well as in healthy individuals. We then assessed the correlation between CTHRC1 protein and a range of indices including the 28-joint disease activity score (DAS28), rheumatoid factor (RF), C-reactive protein (CRP), anti-citrullinated protein antibodies (ACPA), erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), as well as a panel of cytokines, including interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β), interleukin 6 (IL-6), interleukin 8 (IL-8), and interferon gamma (IFNγ). Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) analysis was further performed to assess the diagnostic value of CTHRC1.

Results: CTHRC1 plasma levels were significantly elevated in RA patients compared to healthy individuals, OA and ReA patients. ROC curve and risk score analysis suggested that plasma CTHRC1 can accurately discriminate patients with RA from healthy controls and may have practical value for RA diagnosis. CTHRC1 levels were positively associated with RF, ACPA, CRP, and disease activity based on the combined index of DAS28 with CRP (DAS28-CRP), and also strongly correlated with IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, and IFNγ.

Conclusion: Our studies show that CTHRC1 is a sensitive and easy-to-measure plasma marker that differentiates between RA and healthy status and also distinguishes between RA and other forms of arthritis, such as OA and ReA. At the current level of understanding, plasma CTHRC1 levels may improve the diagnosis of RA and these findings warrant confirmation in a larger, more comprehensive patient population.

Frontiers in Pharmacology, 2016

Liver fibrosis is the result of a deregulated wound healing process characterized by the excessive deposition of extracellular matrix. Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs), which are activated in response to liver injury, are the major source of extracellular matrix and drive the wound healing process. However, chronic liver damage leads to perpetual HSC activation, progressive formation of pathological scar tissue and ultimately, cirrhosis and organ failure. HSC activation is triggered largely in response to mechanosignaling from the microenvironment, which induces a profibrotic nuclear transcription program that promotes HSC proliferation and extracellular matrix secretion thereby setting up a positive feedback loop leading to matrix stiffening and self-sustained, pathological, HSC activation. Despite the significant progress in our understanding of liver fibrosis, the molecular mechanisms through which the extracellular matrix promotes HSC activation are not well understood and no effective therapies have been approved to date that can target this early, reversible, stage in liver fibrosis. Several new lines of investigation now provide important insight into this area of study and identify two nuclear targets whose inhibition has the potential of reversing liver fibrosis by interfering with HSC activation: Yes-associated protein (YAP), a transcriptional co-activator and effector of the mechanosensitive Hippo pathway, and bromodomain-containing protein 4 (BRD4), an epigenetic regulator of gene expression. YAP and BRD4 activity is induced in response to mechanical stimulation of HSCs and each protein independently controls waves of early gene expression necessary for HSC activation. Significantly, inhibition of either protein can revert the chronic activation of HSCs and impede pathological progression of liver fibrosis in clinically relevant model systems. In this review we will discuss the roles of these nuclear co-activators in HSC activation, their mechanism of action in the fibrotic process in the liver and other organs, and the potential of targeting their activity with small molecule drugs for fibrosis reversal.

Molecular and Cellular Biology, 2010

Cell migration requires the regulated disassembly of focal adhesions, but the underlying mechanisms remain poorly defined. We have previously shown that focal adhesion disassembly requires the dynamin 2- and clathrin-dependent endocytosis of ligand-activated β1 integrins. Here, we identify type I phosphatidylinositol phosphate kinase beta (PIPKIβ), an enzyme that generates phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate (PI4,5P2), as a key regulator of this process. We found that knockdown of PIPKIβ by RNA interference blocks the internalization of active β1 integrins and impairs focal adhesion turnover and cell migration. These defects are caused by the failure to target the endocytic machinery, including clathrin adaptors and dynamin 2, to focal adhesion sites. As a consequence, depletion of PIPKIβ blocks clathrin assembly at adhesion plaques and prevents complex formation between dynamin 2 and focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a critical step in focal adhesion turnover. Together, our findings identify PIPKIβ as a novel regulator of focal adhesion disassembly and suggest that PIPKIβ spatially regulates integrin endocytosis at adhesion sites to control cell migration.

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