ICYMI: New DMCB/MORI Seminar Series Kickoff

This month I’ll be giving you the low-down on a seminar that kicked off a new weekly meeting, hosted by by MORI (Molecular Oncology Research Institute) and the DMCB (Developmental, Molecular, & Chemical Biology) department. The inaugural meeting took place on Thursday, January 26, 2017, with talks presented by Jerrica Breindel, Ph.D. and Thomas Ni, Ph.D., both postdoctoral researchers in the Kuperwasser lab, which focuses on breast development and cancer research.

Before the realization of this new series, MORI hosted a pizza-catered weekly seminar on Friday afternoons at 75 Kneeland. Graduate students and postdocs from the Hinds, Kuperwasser, Hu, Tsichlis, Kuliopulos and other members of the institute would participate in the meetings for the opportunity to share their work and receive feedback from other scientists working in the cancer field. Thanks to the initiative of several professors, the once exclusively-MORI meeting has now joined forces with interested labs in the DMCB department to bring together more scientists on a weekly basis.

At this first meeting, Jerrica presented to talk about her work on elucidating whether certain oncogenes drive the formation of specific subtypes of breast cancer. Her approach involves breeding mice with mammary gland driven oncogenes and observing the phenotypes of their mammary epithelial development and tumorigenesis. In collaboration with Piyush Gupta’s lab at MIT, she is also experimenting with growing human primary mammary organoids that are infected with viruses that cause the expression of various oncogenes of interest in 3D hydrogels. The structures generated in these gels look incredible as they grow into biologically relevant ductal networks that can be assessed with immunofluorescence. Pro tip: if you happen to be in Kendall Square, walk by the Koch Institute’s first floor where you can see a picture of one of these beautiful structures on display!

Next up, Tom presented his unique and innovative quest to define a novel method for identifying putative tumor suppressor genes and oncogenes. Following up on a hit from a screen he conducted as a graduate student at Yale University, he identified that an alternative isoform of a protein called MAGI3 acts as an oncogene that can promote breast cancer by permitting Hippo signaling that causes malignant transformation of mammary epithelial cells. After uncovering that premature poladenylation is responsible for the production of this alternative isoform, he started to investigate whether other cancer-related genes have the same premature poladenylation signal. Intriguingly, it appears that the mechanism behind MAGI3’s alternative isoform is not a one-off event, but something that might be behind the formation of many known (and very likely unknown) genes that are involved in tumorigenesis!

Overall, this first meeting was a great success: we drank, we snacked, and we learned about some truly exciting work from the members of the Kuperwasser lab. Everyone is welcome to attend these series, held every Thursday at 4PM in M&V412. Emily Michael of the Kuliopulos Lab spoke at the subsequent meeting on February 2nd and we are all looking forward to hearing from other members of MORI and DMCB in these upcoming months!