Communication between cells is an essential feature of living organisms. Signals received from the environment are processed and integrated by the cell, leading to changes in its morphology and behavior. Many human diseases, such as developmental defects and cancer, are caused by defective signal transduction.
Our laboratory studies various aspects of cellular signaling, with particular focus on the Hedgehog pathway. Hedgehog signaling is involved in the development of limbs, the spinal cord, the heart, and the brain. Its aberrant activation leads to many types of cancer, including the most common childhood brain tumor medulloblastoma. We want to find out how the signal is transmitted from the Hedgehog receptor Patched to Gli transcription factors, which are the main effectors of the pathway in the nucleus. To achieve that goal we use a variety of techniques, including mathematical modeling, genetic manipulation of mammalian cells, fluorescence imaging, qualitative and quantitative proteomics, transcriptomic analyses, mouse models of cancer, and in vivo manipulation of vertebrate embryos. This broad toolbox allows us to approach basic questions in molecular and cell biology from a variety of angles and to shed new light on fundamental mechanisms of signal transduction. We hope that our work will have implications for the treatment of human disease, including cancer.