G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) represent the largest family of cell surface proteins involved in signal transmission. Nearly 30% of human cancers harbor mutations in GPCRs/G proteins. Activating mutations in GNAQ and GNA11 have been discovered in 90% of Uveal Melanoma (UM).UM is the most common primary cancer of the eye in adults and to date there are no effective treatments. 50% of UM patients develop metastatic disease, which is refractory to current chemotherapies leading to patient death within a year. Prolonged Gaq signaling leads to the activation of YAP, a transcriptional co-activator regulated, necessary for UM growth. GNAQ stimulates YAP through FAK. Inhibition of FAK reduces UM growth,leading FAK to be a potential therapeutic target for UM. In UM, the particular Gαq–regulated pathways that when overactive can render FAK inhibitor(FAKi) ineffective, as well as what feedback mechanisms should be targeted to optimize therapeutic responses to FAKi are still unknown. I will use a panel of GNAQ-driven UM cells and perform a genetic screen using the Cancer Signaling Toolkit to discover molecular determinants of sensitivity or resistance to FAK inhibition. Signaling candidates and screening hits discovered will be prioritized and their biological impact in UM growth and FAKi sensitivity will be evaluated. To increase FAKi activity and reduce therapy resistance, I will also investigate whether co-targeting candidate GNAQ-effector and FAKi resistance pathways will synergize with FAKi, resulting in UM cell death. Finally,I will explore the mechanism of UM cell death by co-targeting. My studies will reveal new targeted(precision) strategies for multiple Gαq-driven pathological conditions in cancer The project will be supervised by Dr. Gutikind and Dr.Martini two experts in GPRC/G proteins. Through this work, I aim to broaden my scientific expertise (including technical and transferable skills) and to establish myself as an independent researcher in cancer biology
Organisms of all domains of life are capable of sensing, using and responding to light. The molecular mechanisms used are diverse, but most commonly the starting event is an electronic excitation localized on a chromophoric unit bound to a protein matrix. The initial excitation rapidly “travels” across space to be converted in other forms of energy and finally used to complete the biological function. The whole machinery spans many different space and time scales: from the ultrafast electronic process localized at the subnanoscale of the chromophoric units, through conformational processes which involve large parts of the protein and are completed within micro- to milli-seconds, up to the activation of new protein-protein interactions requiring seconds or more. Theoretically addressing this cascade of processes calls for new models and computational strategies able to reproduce the dynamics across multiple space and time scales. Such a goal is formidably challenging as the interactions and the dynamics involved at each scale follow completely different laws, from those of the quantum world to those of classical particles. Only a strategy based upon the integration of quantum chemistry, classical atomistic and coarse-grained models up to continuum approximations, can achieve the required completeness of description. This project aims at developing such integration and transforming it into high-performance computing codes. The completeness and accuracy reached by the simulations will represent a breakthrough in our understanding of the mechanisms, which govern the light-driven bioactivity. Through this novel point of observation of the action from the “inside”, it will be possible not only to reveal the ‘design principles’ used by Nature but also to give a “practical” instrument to test “in silico” new techniques for the control of cellular processes by manipulating protein functions through light.