Education & Certifications
Doctor of Philosophy, Stanford University, CSB-PHD (2020)
Bachelor of Science, Georgetown University, Biology (2013)
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Since their discovery as drivers of proliferation, cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) have been considered therapeutic targets. Small molecule inhibitors of CDK4/6 are used and tested in clinical trials to treat multiple cancer types. Despite their clinical importance, little is known about how CDK4/6 inhibitors affect the stability of CDK4/6 complexes, which bind cyclins and inhibitory proteins such as p21. We develop an assay to monitor CDK complex stability inside the nucleus. Unexpectedly, treatment with CDK4/6 inhibitors-palbociclib, ribociclib, or abemaciclib-immediately dissociates p21 selectively from CDK4 but not CDK6 complexes. This effect mediates indirect inhibition of CDK2 activity by p21 but not p27 redistribution. Our work shows that CDK4/6 inhibitors have two roles: non-catalytic inhibition of CDK2 via p21 displacement from CDK4 complexes, and catalytic inhibition of CDK4/6 independent of p21. By broadening the non-catalytic displacement to p27 and CDK6 containing complexes, next-generation CDK4/6 inhibitors may have improved efficacy and overcome resistance mechanisms.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-021-23612-z
View details for PubMedID 34099663
Mammalian cells typically start the cell-cycle entry program by activating cyclin-dependent protein kinase 4/6 (CDK4/6). CDK4/6 activity is clinically relevant as mutations, deletions, and amplifications that increase CDK4/6 activity contribute to the progression of many cancers. However, when CDK4/6 is activated relative to CDK2 remained incompletely understood. Here we developed a reporter system to simultaneously monitor CDK4/6 and CDK2 activities in single cells and found that CDK4/6 activity increases rapidly before CDK2 activity gradually increases, and that CDK4/6 activity can be active after mitosis or inactive for variable time periods. Markedly, stress signals in G1 can rapidly inactivate CDK4/6 to return cells to quiescence but with reduced probability as cells approach S phase. Together, our study reveals a regulation of G1 length by temporary inactivation of CDK4/6 activity after mitosis, and a progressively increasing persistence in CDK4/6 activity that restricts cells from returning to quiescence as cells approach S phase.
View details for DOI 10.7554/eLife.44571
View details for PubMedID 32255427
Cell-cycle entry relies on an orderly progression of signaling events. To start, cells first activate the kinase cyclin D-CDK4/6, which leads to eventual inactivation of the retinoblastoma protein Rb. Hours later, cells inactivate APC/CCDH1 and cross the final commitment point. However, many cells with genetically deleted cyclin Ds, which activate and confer specificity to CDK4/6, can compensate and proliferate. Despite its importance in cancer, how this entry mechanism operates remains poorly characterized, and whether cells use this path under normal conditions remains unknown. Here, using single-cell microscopy, we demonstrate that cells with acutely inhibited CDK4/6 enter the cell cycle with a slowed and fluctuating cyclin E-CDK2 activity increase. Surprisingly, with low CDK4/6 activity, the order of APC/CCDH1 and Rb inactivation is reversed in both cell lines and wild-type mice. Finally, we show that as a consequence of this signaling inversion, Rb inactivation replaces APC/CCDH1 inactivation as the point of no return. Together, we elucidate the molecular steps that enable cell-cycle entry without CDK4/6 activity. Our findings not only have implications in cancer resistance, but also reveal temporal plasticity underlying the G1 regulatory circuit.
View details for DOI 10.1038/s41467-020-18966-9
View details for PubMedID 33082317
Precise regulation of cellular proliferation is critical to tissue homeostasis and development, but misregulation leads to diseases of excess proliferation or cell loss. To achieve precise control, cells utilize distinct mechanisms of growth arrest such as quiescence and senescence. The decision to enter these growth-arrested states or proliferate is mediated by the core cell-cycle machinery that responds to diverse external and internal signals. Recent advances have revealed the molecular underpinnings of these cell-cycle decisions, highlighting the unique nature of cell-cycle entry from quiescence, identifying endogenous DNA damage as a quiescence-inducing signal, and establishing how persistent arrest is achieved in senescence.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.ceb.2019.05.005
View details for PubMedID 31252282
Faithful DNA replication is challenged by stalling of replication forks during Sphase. Replication stress is further increased in cancer cells or in response to genotoxic insults. Using live single-cell image analysis, we found that CDK2 activity fluctuates throughout an unperturbed Sphase. We show that CDK2 fluctuations result from transient ATR signals triggered by stochastic replication stress events. In turn, fluctuating endogenous CDK2 activity causes corresponding decreases and increases in DNA synthesis rates, linking changes in stochastic replication stress to fluctuating global DNA replication rates throughout Sphase. Moreover, cells that re-enter the cell cycle after mitogen stimulation have increased CDK2 fluctuations and prolonged Sphase resulting from increased replication stress-induced CDK2 suppression. Thus, our study reveals a dynamic control principle for DNA replication whereby CDK2 activity is suppressed and fluctuates throughout Sphase to continually adjust global DNA synthesis rates in response to recurring stochastic replication stress events.
View details for PubMedID 29909278
Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) replication and packaging require interactions between the unbranched rodlike structure of HDV RNA and hepatitis delta antigen (HDAg), a basic, disordered, oligomeric protein. The tendency of the protein to bind nonspecifically to nucleic acids has impeded analysis of HDV RNA protein complexes and conclusive determination of the regions of HDAg involved in RNA binding. The most widely cited model suggests that RNA binding involves two proposed arginine-rich motifs (ARMs I and II) in the middle of HDAg. However, other studies have questioned the roles of the ARMs. Here, binding activity was analyzed in vitro using HDAg-160, a C-terminal truncation that binds with high affinity and specificity to HDV RNA segments in vitro. Mutation of the core arginines of ARM I or ARM II in HDAg-160 did not diminish binding to HDV unbranched rodlike RNA. These same mutations did not abolish the ability of full-length HDAg to inhibit HDV RNA editing in cells, an activity that involves RNA binding. Moreover, only the N-terminal region of the protein, which does not contain the ARMs, was cross-linked to a bound HDV RNA segment in vitro. These results indicate that the amino-terminal region of HDAg is in close contact with the RNA and that the proposed ARMs are not required for binding HDV RNA. Binding was not reduced by mutation of additional clusters of basic amino acids. This result is consistent with an RNA-protein complex that is formed via numerous contacts between the RNA and each HDAg monomer.
View details for DOI 10.1128/JVI.00929-13
View details for Web of Science ID 000321590200035
View details for PubMedID 23740973
View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3719807