Edward Leithe's project group
Our research group studies the role of the ubiquitin system in cell communication and cancer. One important mechanism for intercellular communication involves the direct transfer of ions and signaling molecules between adjacent cells via intercellular channels. These channels assemble into arrays referred to as gap junctions. In vertebrates, gap junction channels are composed of members of a family of integral membrane proteins known as connexins. The connexins have important roles in controlling cell growth and differentiation and in maintaining tissue homeostasis. Several members of the connexin protein family have been shown to act as tumor suppressor proteins, and they are frequently downregulated during cancer development. We are studying the role of the ubiquitin system in the regulation of connexins and how the malfunction of these processes may contribute to the loss of intercellular communication via gap junctions during cancer pathogenesis. A major aim of our work is to identify and functionally characterize E3 ubiquitin ligases involved in intercellular communication and cancer.