The mechanistic research of the laboratory of Mark A. McNiven, Ph.D., is focused on cellular membrane and cytoskeletal interactions that play an essential role in many cellular processes of normal organ-tissue function and in the disease process. These include tumor growth and metastasis, pathogenic infection, receptor signaling and growth cascades, metabolism, and much more. Specifically, this program is focused on the cellular mechanisms supporting fatty liver and the invasive processes exhibited by pancreatic and hepatic cancers.

This program is currently supported by three distinct RO1 grants from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study disease processes that occur in cells of the liver and pancreas when these cellular functions are disrupted.

As a tool to study these processes, the lab has focused upon the large GTPase dynamin 2 (Dyn2), a mechanoenzyme that is ubiquitously expressed and mediates membrane tubulation and vesicle formation at various secretory and endocytic compartments.

Dr. McNiven and other researchers have demonstrated that the Dyn2 contractile polymer has been shown to interact with a wide variety of different cytoskeletal adaptor proteins in cells that facilitate its physiological functions. The lab is currently focusing on:

  • The internalization and traffic of the important growth factor receptors for epidermal growth factor and transferrin in hepatocytes
  • Migratory invasion that supports metastatic pancreatic adenocarcinoma
  • Lipid droplet dynamics that lead to hepatic steatosis