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LSUHSC ARRA GRANT SUPPORTS RESEARCH ON HOW LIKE CELL RECEPTOR SYSTEMS DETERMINE VERY DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS

New Orleans, LA – Andy Catling, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans, has been awarded a $177, 500 supplement to his RO1 grant by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences to support his research on the mechanism by which seemingly similar cell receptor systems determine quite different functions influenced by hormones and drugs.

"We are interested in how the generic ERK signaling pathway confers specific physiological outcomes such as proliferation, differentiation and cell migration," notes Dr. Catling. "We hypothesize that specificity is conferred by the action of input- and output-specific ‘scaffolding’ molecules that assemble the pathway around growth factor receptors."

The supplement was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and will be used to help retain key personnel needed to identify and characterize ERK phosphorylation targets – proteins to which phosphate groups can be added, increasing or decreasing protein function – specified by the scaffold. These phosphorylation targets are involved in the development of disease.

Dr. Ashok Pullikuth in Catling’s lab has recently identified a protein that functions in the intracellular movement and cell division activity of growth factor receptors as a novel phosphorylation target. Understanding this novel mechanism might be important in treating conditions that are dependent upon specific growth factor receptors, like some breast cancers in which the EGF receptor family drives growth and survival.

"Our studies might provide insight into how specific functions of a pathway might be targeted therapeutically while not eliminating all essential housekeeping functions of the pathway," Dr. Catling says. "The beauty of research is that no one knows just how useful their findings will be in the future – there may be entirely unexpected benefits in addition to more predictable outcomes."

These key personnel and the data they generate are essential to submit a competitive renewal of this RO1 grant in November.

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LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates the majority of Louisiana's health care professionals.  The state's academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, Schools of Allied Health Professions and Graduate Studies, as well as the only School of Nursing in Louisiana within an academic health center. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout Louisiana. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas worldwide, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, treat, or cure disease. LSUHSC outreach programs span the state.

The activities described in this release are being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information about NIH’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/. To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA, visit www.hhs.gov/recovery. To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.

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