Faculty Profile: Kong, Mei

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Faculty Information Lab Information (Packet Type, Course Title, & Department) Location
Kong, Mei
Lab Contact:
Eric Hanse
Department: Molecular Biology & Biochemistry
3119 McGaugh Hall

Research Description

Signal transduction and Cancer Metabolism
Tumor cells often display fundamental changes in metabolism and increase their uptake of nutrients to meet the increased bioenergetic demands of proliferation. Glucose and glutamine are two main nutrients whose uptake is directly controlled by signal transduction and are essential for tumor cell survival and proliferation. Altered glucose metabolism in cancer cells is termed the Warburg effect, which describes the propensity of most cancer cells to take up glucose avidly and convert it primarily to lactate, despite available oxygen. In addition to glucose, glutamine is another essential nutrient whose uptake is directly controlled by oncogenes, and it is critical for cancer cell survival and proliferation. During tumor growth, increased uptake of nutrients and rapid accumulation of cells can outstrip the supply of essential nutrients, including glucose and glutamine. How tumor cells survive these temporary periods of nutrient deprivation is unclear but is necessary for tumorigenesis to persist. The major goal of our laboratory is to delineate the strategies used by tumor cells to survive periods of nutrient deprivation and then to develop novel therapies targeting nutrient-sensing pathways of neoplastic cells.

Obesity and Wnt signaling
The adipocyte conveys the state of the energy supply stockpile during stress to the rest of the body by secreting a myriad of cytokines (termed adipokines), lipid signaling molecules and hormones. Due to these new-found roles, the adipose tissue could be considered the largest endocrine organ in the body. Importantly, dysfunction of adipose tissue in obese humans is associated with disrupted metabolic homeostasis and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, highlighting the importance of understanding the molecular mechanism that regulate adipose tissue function, development, turnover and homeostasis. Due to the broader role of adipose tissue in physiology, over the last 20 years, the field has made great progress in studying the many functions of adipocytes in physiological functions and diseases. However, the basic molecular mechanism and signaling pathways that control adipose development has lagged behind. This project will focus on the role of protein phosphatase 2A in adipose development via regulation of Wnt signaling. This project will need to use biochemistry, molecular biology, cell biology and animal model to test the hypothesis.

Requirements to Participate

Students need to have training in cell biology, biochemistry, and signal transduction. 1-2 year commitment.

Faculty Means of Evaluation

Attendance: 20 pts
Lab work: 50 pts
Communication: 10 pts
Lab Citizenship: 20 Pts