Viral Hepatitis Pathogenesis Group

Lab head: Dr Mark Douglas
Location: Storr Liver Unit, Westmead Millennium Institute

Actin-Keratin Interactions in Hepatitis C Virus induced Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition

Primary supervisor: Mark Douglas

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is the process by which epithelial cells become mesenchymal cells. This process is characterised by loss of cell polarity and gain of migratory and invasive properties, mediated by the differential expression of multiple genes involved in cell adhesion and cytoskeletal maintenance. EMT is known to be essential for several biological processes, including embryogenesis and wound healing, and disease states such as fibrosis and cancer.

One important disease state in the liver is chronic Hepatitis C, where viral infection causes hepatocytes (epithelial cells) to undergo EMT. Our lab has found evidence of expression of a specific EMT marker - alpha smooth muscle actin (SMA) - in infected hepatocytes and found that it interacts with the intermediate filament protein keratin. This is a novel finding and potentially one of great biological significance, considering the essential roles the actin and keratin networks play in cell motility and structural support.

The aim of this project will be to characterise the interaction between keratin and SMA and will involve a range of methods, including mammalian tissue culture, gene cloning, mutagenesis, immunoprecipitation and fluorescence microscopy. This study will provide solid grounding in molecular techniques and also scope for an independent thinker to develop this study into a potential PhD project.


Discipline: Pathology
Co-supervisors: Brett Hambly, Enoch Tay
Keywords: Hepatitis, Liver Disease, Liver Cancer
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