The functions of various hormones are mediated through their corresponding receptors, which serve as communicators between extracellular and intracellular signals. Among the present pharmaceutical products, more than 90% of marketed drugs are hormone derivatives or molecules designed to target the mechanisms conducted by hormone-receptor interactions. Therefore, in our lab we aim to discover the novel hormones and characterize the molecular actions of hormone receptors. Several strategies and research goals were briefly described below.
Project 1. Molecular mechanisms of cancers related to reproductive system.
We currently have two running cancer projects. (1) Ovarian cancer: Ovarian cancer is the third most common but the first leading cause of death from gynecologic malignancies among women in Taiwan. In this project, we will try to characterize the differential expression of genes by in vivo cancer selection. We aim to develop nano-drugs for translational medicines through collaboration with our team groups. (2) Uterine cancer: Endometrial carcinoma is the most common malignancy of the female genital tract in western countries and shows an increasing incidence rate in Taiwan. In this project, we now focus on the effects of GPCR signaling on tumorigenesis.
Project 2. TGF-beta/BMP signaling in stem cell specification.
The signals of the TGF-beta/BMP family play crucial roles in controlling many aspects of stem cell functions, such as stemness, proliferation, differentiation and survival. In this project, we currently focus on the fields of (1) bone formation and (2) postnatal gonadal development. We aim to clarify their temporal and spatial expression profiles, their counterplaying antagonists, as well as their physiological functions in these tissues. We also aim to characterize their signaling and effects on mesenchymal stem cells in bones and germ cells in gonads. These would allow us to develop approaches to increase bone healing efficiency and to treat infertility.
Project 3. Hormonal actions on ovarian development.
Mammalian ovary is the organ that contains the largest numbers of endocrine as well as paracrine factors. The communication between these signaling molecules and receptors expressed in the oocyte, granulosa cells and theca/interstitial cells governs the follicular growth and ovarian development. Therefore, we are interested in exploring the potential function and physiological regulation of the novel hormones found in the ovary.
Project 4. Functional genomic approaches for novel hormone discovery.
Using computational tools to analyze the massive protein databases in species, homologies among polypeptide hormones can be sorted and placed into families. We have identified several novel endocrine genes based on evolutionary conservation. Following the gene identification, the recombinant hormones will be generated and the potential functions will be studied.