Sarah C. Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Sarah C. Hughes (Ph.D. University of Toronto)

Adjunct Associate Professor

Department of Medical Genetics
8-42A Medical Sciences Building
Phone: (780) 492-8984
Fax: (780) 492-1998 (fax)
sarah.hughes@ualberta.ca


Current Research Interests

A genetic model for Neurofibromatosis Type II: Identification and characterization of protein partners of the Merlin tumour suppressor protein

We study the molecular mechanisms that link polarity and proliferation in epithelial cells. When cells lose this linkage they often become metastatic. Specifically, we use Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) as a genetic model to study Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), an inherited cancer of the brain and spinal cord. Mutation or loss of the NF2 gene is also associated with metastasis of several non-neuronal tumours. Merlin, the protein product of the NF2 gene, is a tumour suppressor that interacts with the plasma membrane and the cytoskeleton. However, the molecular mechanism of how Merlin acts as a tumour suppressor is not known. To address this question, we are taking the approach of identifying and characterizing proteins that interact with Merlin. Drosophila provides a unique toolbox of powerful genetic techniques to determine the function of Merlin and its interacting proteins. We have already identified several proteins that interact with Merlin, and are currently studying how these control proliferation and adhesion within the cell. We hypothesize that Merlin is functioning as part of a multi-protein complex to control proliferation and polarity. Other proteins include kinases, scaffold proteins and proteins involved in post-transcriptional regulation. The approaches we use include genetic analysis, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, and advanced microscopy.


Selected Publications

Yang Yang, David A. Primrose, Albert C. Leung, Ross B. Fitzsimmons, Matt C. McDermand, Alison Missellbrook, Julie Haskins, AnneLiese S. Smylie  and Sarah C. Hughes. 2012. The PP1 phosphatase Flapwing regulates the activity of Merlin and Moesin in Drosophila.  Developmental Biology. V361 pgs.412-426.

Fred D. Mast*, Jing Li*, Maninder K. Virk, Sarah C. Hughes, Andrew J. Simmonds and Richard A. Rachubinski. 2011. Characterization of the functional requirement for Drosophila Pex1 during embryonic development. Disease Models and Mechanisms. V4 pgs. 659-672.

Hughes, S.C.*, Formstecher, E., and R.G. Fehon.  2010. Sip1, the Drosophila orthologue of EBP50/NHERF1, interacts with the Sterile 20 family kinase Slik to regulate Moesin activity.  Journal of Cell Science 123, 1099-1107.   * denotes corresponding author  

Edan Foley, Harriet Harris, Sarah C. Hughes, and Andrew J. Simmonds. 2009. I  CanFly – Can you? - The 10th Canadian Drosophila Research Conference, Jasper/Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Fly 3:4, 1-2

Deng, H., Hughes S.C., Bell J.B. and Simmonds A.J. (2009). Vestigial, Scalloped and Dmef2 form alternative transcriptional complexes during muscle differentiation in Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular Biology of the Cell, V20:256-269.

Hughes, S.C. and R.G. Fehon. (2007). Understanding ERM Proteins – The awesome power of genetics finally brought to bear. Current Opinion in Cell Biology, 19:51-56.  

Hughes, S.C. and R.G. Fehon. (2006). Phosphorylation and activity of the tumor-suppressor Merlin and ERM protein Moesin are coordinately regulated by the Slik kinase.  Journal of Cell Biology, 175(2):305-313. 


Technician 
David Primrose

Research Associate
Rika Maruyama

Graduate Students
Namal Abeysundara
Kirsten Arnold
Sophie Keegan
Sophia Yip 

Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr. Boyin Liu