Education & Certifications

  • Bachelor of Arts, Princeton University, Molecular Biology (2021)

All Publications

  • TGF-beta-induced DACT1 biomolecular condensates repress Wnt signalling to promote bone metastasis NATURE CELL BIOLOGY Esposito, M., Fang, C., Cook, K. C., Park, N., Wei, Y., Spadazzi, C., Bracha, D., Gunaratna, R. T., Laevsky, G., DeCoste, C. J., Slabodkin, H., Brangwynne, C. P., Cristea, I. M., Kang, Y. 2021; 23 (3): 257-+


    The complexity of intracellular signalling requires both a diversity of molecular players and the sequestration of activity to unique compartments within the cell. Recent findings on the role of liquid-liquid phase separation provide a distinct mechanism for the spatial segregation of proteins to regulate signalling pathway crosstalk. Here, we discover that DACT1 is induced by TGFβ and forms protein condensates in the cytoplasm to repress Wnt signalling. These condensates do not localize to any known organelles but, rather, exist as phase-separated proteinaceous cytoplasmic bodies. The deletion of intrinsically disordered domains within the DACT1 protein eliminates its ability to both form protein condensates and suppress Wnt signalling. Isolation and mass spectrometry analysis of these particles revealed a complex of protein machinery that sequesters casein kinase 2-a Wnt pathway activator. We further demonstrate that DACT1 condensates are maintained in vivo and that DACT1 is critical to breast and prostate cancer bone metastasis.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/s41556-021-00641-w

    View details for Web of Science ID 000626809600003

    View details for PubMedID 33723425

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7970447

  • The role of polo-like kinase 3 in the response of BRAF-mutant cells to targeted anticancer therapies MOLECULAR CARCINOGENESIS Babagana, M., Kichina, J. V., Slabodkin, H., Johnson, S., Maslov, A., Brown, L., Attwood, K., Nikiforov, M. A., Kandel, E. S. 2020; 59 (1): 5-14


    The activation of oncogenic mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade via mutations in BRAF is often observed in human melanomas. Targeted inhibitors of BRAF (BRAFi), alone or as a part of a combination therapy, offer a significant benefit to such patients. Unfortunately, some cases are initially nonresponsive to these drugs, while others become refractory in the course of treatment, underscoring the need to understand and mitigate the underlying resistance mechanisms. We report that interference with polo-like kinase 3 (PLK3) reduces the tolerance of BRAF-mutant melanoma cells to BRAFi, while increased PLK3 expression has the opposite effect. Accordingly, PLK3 expression correlates with tolerance to BRAFi in a panel of BRAF-mutant cell lines and is elevated in a subset of recurring BRAFi-resistant melanomas. In PLK3-expressing cells, R406, a kinase inhibitor whose targets include PLK3, recapitulates the sensitizing effects of genetic PLK3 inhibitors. The findings support a role for PLK3 as a predictor of BRAFi efficacy and suggest suppression of PLK3 as a way to improve the efficacy of targeted therapy.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/mc.23123

    View details for Web of Science ID 000618860300001

    View details for PubMedID 31571292

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6908756

  • P21-activated kinase 1 regulates resistance to BRAF inhibition in human cancer cells MOLECULAR CARCINOGENESIS Babagana, M., Johnson, S., Slabodkin, H., Bshara, W., Morrison, C., Kandel, E. S. 2017; 56 (5): 1515-1525


    BRAF is a commonly mutated oncogene in various human malignancies and a target of a new class of anti-cancer agents, BRAF-inhibitors (BRAFi). The initial enthusiasm for these agents, based on the early successes in the management of metastatic melanoma, is now challenged by the mounting evidence of intrinsic BRAFi-insensitivity in many BRAF-mutated tumors, by the scarcity of complete responses, and by the inevitable emergence of drug resistance in initially responsive cases. These setbacks put an emphasis on discovering the means to increase the efficacy of BRAFi and to prevent or overcome BRAFi-resistance. We explored the role of p21-activated kinases (PAKs), in particular PAK1, in BRAFi response. BRAFi lowered the levels of active PAK1 in treated cells. An activated form of PAK1 conferred BRAFi-resistance on otherwise sensitive cells, while genetic or pharmacologic suppression of PAK1 had a sensitizing effect. While activation of AKT1 and RAC1 proto-oncogenes increased BRAFi-tolerance, the protective effect was negated in the presence of PAK inhibitors. Furthermore, combining otherwise ineffective doses of PAK- and BRAF-inhibitors synergistically affected intrinsically BRAFi-resistant cells. Considering the high incidence of PAK1 activation in cancers, our findings suggests PAK inhibition as a strategy to augment BRAFi therapy and overcome some of the well-known resistance mechanisms.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/mc.22611

    View details for Web of Science ID 000399592100013

    View details for PubMedID 28052407

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5392142

  • The evidence for a microRNA product of human DROSHA gene RNA BIOLOGY Mechtler, P., Johnson, S., Slabodkin, H., Cohanim, A. B., Brodsky, L., Kandel, E. S. 2017; 14 (11): 1508-1513


    MicroRNAs are short RNA molecules that regulate function and stability of a large subset of eukaryotic mRNAs. In the main pathway of microRNA biogenesis, a short "hairpin" is excised from a primary transcript by ribonuclease DROSHA, followed by additional nucleolytic processing by DICER and inclusion of the mature microRNA into the RNA-induced silencing complex. We report that a microRNA-like molecule is encoded by human DROSHA gene within a predicted stem-loop element of the respective transcript. This putative mature microRNA is complementary to DROSHA transcript variant 1 and can attenuate expression of the corresponding protein. The findings suggest a possibility for a negative feedback loop, wherein DROSHA processes its own transcript and produces an inhibitor of its own biosynthesis.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/15476286.2017.1342934

    View details for Web of Science ID 000422628400008

    View details for PubMedID 28665784

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5785223