Research - University of Houston
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Nuclear receptors are ligand activated transcription factors, active in the nucleus of the cells, that directly interact with DNA to impact transcription. Their function can be pictured as a key and lock: A ligand or “key” binds specifically to its receptor or “lock” into which it fits uniquely, and activates cell signaling, or “unlocks the door.” These receptors are important in a wide variety of biological processes, such as development, homeostasis, and metabolism, and also are implicated in many diseases, e.g., cancer, diabetes and neurodegenerative disorders. Cell signaling is the communication that coordinates cellular activity and actions within and between cells and their microenvironment. Errors in cell signaling are implicated in a wide variety of diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and autoimmune disorders. By understanding cell signaling, we will be able to treat and prevent many diseases.

Research Areas

Cancer Virotherapy

The Zhang lab is focused on cancer virotherapy, or the modification of benign viruses for the purpose of attacking cancer cells.

Nuclear Receptors & Cancer

The main focus of the Gustafsson lab is to understand more about estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) and its mechanisms in cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer and lung cancer. The Chung lab is studying the molecular mechanism by which estrogen receptor alpha (ERα) and the progesterone receptor promote cervical cancer. The Lin lab is interested in identifying and characterizing nuclear receptors that may play a role in disease recurrence, metastasis, and progression in breast and ovarian cancers. The Warner lab is investigating the value of ERβ as a target for treatment of breast and prostate cancer.

Nuclear Receptors & Neurodegenerative Diseases

The Gustafsson and Warner labs are investigating the effects of estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) and liver X receptor beta (LXRβ) in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, amyotropic lateral sclerosis and multiple sclerosis.