Biomedical Research Education & Training
Faculty Member

Lee, Ethan, M.D., Ph.D.
Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology
Professor of Cancer Biology
Associate Professor of Pharmacology

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Phone Number: 615-322-1307

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Lee, Ethan's picture
Academic history
B.A., Rice University, Houston, TX
M.D., Ph.D, Univ of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX
Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA
Visiting Scientist, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA

Office Address   Mailing Address

U-4213A Learned Lab/MRBIII

Department of Cell & Developmental Biology U-4213A Learned Lab/MRBIII 37232-8240

Research Keywords
Wnt, beta-catenin, Axin, adenomatous polyposis coli, Xenopus laevis, embryonic development, functional genomics, biochemistry, chemical genetics, colon cancer, regenerative medicine, stem cells, cancer stem cells

Research Specialty
Mechanism of Wnt signal transduction in development and disease

Research Description
The Wnt pathway is an evolutionarily conserved signaling pathway present in all metazoans. During development, Wnt signaling coordinate the formation of tissues, organs, and limbs, and its misregulation leads to a variety of human disease states such Alzheimeri's disease and cancer. My laboratory is interested in understanding the basic mechanism by which a Wnt signal is propagated and how this information can be used in regenerative medicine and in the treatment of cancer.

A major experimental approach in my laboratory involves the use of Xenopus extracts and purified proteins to biochemically reconstitute Wnt signaling in vitro. Genome-scale screens, cultured mammalian cells, Xenopus embryos, Drosophila genetics (in collaboration with Dr. Laura Lee), and mouse studies are employed to compliment and extend our biochemical findings.

One of the major mysteries of this pathway is how a Wnt signal is propagated from the cell surface. My laboratory has recently developed an in vitro system to study the mechanism of Wnt signal transduction from the plasma membrane. Towards this end, we have focused on understanding the mechanism of signaling from the coreceptor, LRP6, and the potential role of the membrane associated heterotrimeric G protein family members in Wnt signal transduction. Many components of the Wnt pathway are regulated by ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis. Recently, we have taken a genome-scale screen to identify deubiquitinating enzyme (DUBs) and ubiquitin ligases (E3s) that regulate the Wnt pathway. Several hits have been identified from these screens, and current efforts are directed towards validating their roles in Wnt signaling.

In regenerative medicine, the healing process is manipulated to repair damaged tissues. Modern regenerative medicine is a field in which stem cells are manipulated to treat a variety of human diseases. Wnt signaling is one of a handful of molecular pathways critical to stem cells. Thus, agents that target Wnt signaling would be potentially useful for the treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodegeneration, and other disorders that may benefit from regenerative medicine.

Cancer stem cells (CSC) are fundamental to the initiation and maintenance of tumors. Failure to eradicate CSC (as is typical with conventional therapy) leaves behind a small reservoir of cells that drives relapse. Wnt inhibitors would be expected to specifically target this resistant CSC population. Using our Xenopus biochemical system, we have found several compounds that potently inhibit the Wnt pathway. One of these, VU-WS30, inhibits the viability of a variety of cancer cell lines that are highly dependent on Wnt signaling for growth and proliferation. Current efforts are directed towards identifying the molecular targets of VU-WS30 and other Wnt inhibitors identified in our screen.

Broadus, MR, Yew, PR, Hann, SR, Lee, E. Small-molecule high-throughput screening utilizing Xenopus egg extract. Methods Mol Biol, 1263, 63-73, 2015

Chen, TW, Broadus, MR, Huppert, SS, Lee, E. Reconstitution Of beta-catenin Degradation In Xenopus Egg Extract. J Vis Exp(88), 2014

Hainline, SG, Rickmyre, JL, Neitzel, LR, Lee, LA, Lee, E. The Drosophila MCPH1-B isoform is a substrate of the APCCdh1 E3 ubiquitin ligase complex. Biol Open, 2014

Li, B, Fei, DL, Flaveny, CA, Dahmane, N, Baubet, V, Wang, Z, Bai, F, Pei, XH, Rodriguez-Blanco, J, Hang, B, Orton, D, Han, L, Wang, B, Capobianco, AJ, Lee, E, Robbins, DJ. Pyrvinium attenuates Hedgehog signaling downstream of Smoothened. Cancer Res, 2014

Li, B, Flaveny, CA, Giambelli, C, Fei, DL, Han, L, Hang, BI, Bai, F, Pei, XH, Nose, V, Burlingame, O, Capobianco, AJ, Orton, D, Lee, E, Robbins, DJ. Repurposing the FDA-Approved Pinworm Drug Pyrvinium as a Novel Chemotherapeutic Agent for Intestinal Polyposis. PLoS One, 9(7), e101969, 2014

Peters, B, Williams, KC, Gorrindo, P, Rosenberg, D, Lee, EB, Levitt, P, Veenstra-VanderWeele, J. Rigid-compulsive behaviors are associated with mixed bowel symptoms in autism spectrum disorder. J Autism Dev Disord, 44(6), 1425-32, 2014

Sitaram, P, Merkle, JA, Lee, E, Lee, LA. asunder is required for dynein localization and dorsal fate determination during Drosophila oogenesis. Dev Biol, 386(1), 42-52, 2014

Wallace, HA, Merkle, JA, Yu, MC, Berg, TG, Lee, E, Bosco, G, Lee, LA. TRIP/NOPO E3 ubiquitin ligase promotes ubiquitylation of DNA polymerase eta. Development, 141(6), 1332-41, 2014

Barham, W, Frump, AL, Sherrill, TP, Garcia, CB, Saito-Diaz, K, Vansaun, MN, Fingleton, B, Gleaves, L, Orton, D, Capecchi, MR, Blackwell, TS, Lee, E, Yull, F, Eid, JE. Targeting the Wnt Pathway in Synovial Sarcoma Models. Cancer Discovery, 2013

Ferguson, JL, Chao, WC, Lee, E, Friedman, KL. The anaphase promoting complex contributes to the degradation of the S. cerevisiae telomerase recruitment subunit Est1p. PLoS One, 8(1), e55055, 2013

Hao, J, Ao, A, Zhou, L, Murphy, CK, Frist, AY, Keel, JJ, Thorne, CA, Kim, K, Lee, E, Hong, CC. Selective Small Molecule Targeting beta-Catenin Function Discovered by In Vivo Chemical Genetic Screen. Cell Rep, 4(5), 898-904, 2013

Jodoin, JN, Shboul, M, Albrecht, TR, Lee, E, Wagner, EJ, Reversade, B, Lee, LA. The snRNA-processing complex, Integrator, is required for ciliogenesis and dynein recruitment to the nuclear envelope via distinct mechanisms. Biol Open, 2(12), 1390-6, 2013

Jodoin, JN, Sitaram, P, Albrecht, TR, May, SB, Shboul, M, Lee, E, Reversade, B, Wagner, EJ, Lee, LA. Nuclear-localized Asunder regulates cytoplasmic dynein localization via its role in the Integrator complex. Mol Biol Cell, 24(18), 2954-65, 2013

Murphy, AJ, Pierce, J, de Caestecker, C, Ayers, GD, Zhao, A, Krebs, JR, Saito-Diaz, VK, Lee, E, Perantoni, AO, de Caestecker, MP, Lovvorn, HN. CITED1 confers stemness to Wilms tumor and enhances tumorigenic responses when enriched in the nucleus. Oncotarget, 2013

Tacchelly-Benites, O, Wang, Z, Yang, E, Lee, E, Ahmed, Y. Toggling a conformational switch in Wnt/??-catenin signaling: regulation of Axin phosphorylation. The phosphorylation state of Axin controls its scaffold function in two Wnt pathway protein complexes. Bioessays, 35(12), 1063-70, 2013

Hang, BI, Thorne, CA, Robbins, DJ, Huppert, SS, Lee, LA, Lee, E. Screening for small molecule inhibitors of embryonic pathways: sometimes you gotta crack a few eggs. Bioorg Med Chem, 20(6), 1869-77, 2012

Hanson, AJ, Wallace, HA, Freeman, TJ, Beauchamp, RD, Lee, LA, Lee, E. XIAP monoubiquitylates Groucho/TLE to promote canonical Wnt signaling. Mol Cell, 45(5), 619-28, 2012

Jodoin, JN, Shboul, M, Sitaram, P, Zein-Sabatto, H, Reversade, B, Lee, E, Lee, LA. Human Asunder promotes dynein recruitment and centrosomal tethering to the nucleus at mitotic entry. Mol Biol Cell, 23(24), 4713-24, 2012

Saito-Diaz, K, Chen, TW, Wang, X, Thorne, CA, Wallace, HA, Page-McCaw, A, Lee, E. The way Wnt works: Components and mechanism. Growth Factors, 2012

Sitaram, P, Anderson, MA, Jodoin, JN, Lee, E, Lee, LA. Regulation of dynein localization and centrosome positioning by Lis-1 and asunder during Drosophila spermatogenesis. Development, 139(16), 2945-54, 2012

Thorne, CA, Lafleur, B, Lewis, M, Hanson, AJ, Jernigan, KK, Weaver, DC, Huppert, KA, Chen, TW, Wichaidit, C, Cselenyi, CS, Tahinci, E, Meyers, KC, Waskow, E, Orton, D, Salic, A, Lee, LA, Robbins, DJ, Huppert, SS, Lee, E. A biochemical screen for identification of small-molecule regulators of the Wnt pathway using Xenopus egg extracts. J Biomol Screen, 16(9), 995-1006, 2011

Alfaro, MP, Vincent, A, Saraswati, S, Thorne, CA, Hong, CC, Lee, E, Young, PP. sFRP2 suppression of bone morphogenic protein (BMP) and Wnt signaling mediates mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) self-renewal promoting engraftment and myocardial repair. J Biol Chem, 285(46), 35645-53, 2010 PMCID:2993965

Jernigan, KK, Cselenyi, CS, Thorne, CA, Hanson, AJ, Tahinci, E, Hajicek, N, Oldham, WM, Lee, LA, Hamm, HE, Hepler, JR, Kozasa, T, Linder, ME, Lee, E. Gbetagamma activates GSK3 to promote LRP6-mediated beta-catenin transcriptional activity. Sci Signal, 3(121), ra37, 2010

Saraswati, S, Alfaro, MP, Thorne, CA, Atkinson, J, Lee, E, Young, PP. Pyrvinium, a Potent Small Molecule Wnt Inhibitor, Promotes Wound Repair and Post-MI Cardiac Remodeling. PLoS One, 5(11), e15521, 2010 PMCID:2993965

Speirs, CK, Jernigan, KK, Kim, SH, Cha, YI, Lin, F, Sepich, DS, DuBois, RN, Lee, E, Solnica-Krezel, L. Prostaglandin Gbetagamma signaling stimulates gastrulation movements by limiting cell adhesion through Snai1a stabilization. Development, 137(8), 1327-37, 2010

Thorne, CA, Hanson, AJ, Schneider, J, Tahinci, E, Orton, D, Cselenyi, CS, Jernigan, KK, Meyers, KC, Hang, BI, Waterson, AG, Kim, K, Melancon, B, Ghidu, VP, Sulikowski, GA, LaFleur, B, Salic, A, Lee, LA, Miller, DM, Lee, E. Small-molecule inhibition of Wnt signaling through activation of casein kinase 1I?. Nat Chem Biol, 6(11), 829-36, 2010

Anderson, MA, Jodoin, JN, Lee, E, Hales, KG, Hays, TS, Lee, LA. Asunder is a critical regulator of dynein-dynactin localization during Drosophila spermatogenesis. Mol Biol Cell, 20(11), 2709-21, 2009 PMCID:2688550

Barton, CE, Tahinci, E, Barbieri, CE, Johnson, KN, Hanson, AJ, Jernigan, KK, Chen, TW, Lee, E, Pietenpol, JA. DeltaNp63 antagonizes p53 to regulate mesoderm induction in Xenopus laevis. Dev Biol, 329(1), 130-9, 2009 PMCID:2690611

Merkle, JA, Rickmyre, JL, Garg, A, Loggins, EB, Jodoin, JN, Lee, E, Wu, LP, Lee, LA. no poles encodes a predicted E3 ubiquitin ligase required for early embryonic development of Drosophila. Development, 136(3), 449-59, 2009

Alfaro, MP, Pagni, M, Vincent, A, Atkinson, J, Hill, MF, Cates, J, Davidson, JM, Rottman, J, Lee, E, Young, PP. The Wnt modulator sFRP2 enhances mesenchymal stem cell engraftment, granulation tissue formation and myocardial repair. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 105(47), 18366-71, 2008 PMCID:2587631

Cselenyi, CS, Jernigan, KK, Tahinci, E, Thorne, CA, Lee, LA, Lee, E. LRP6 transduces a canonical Wnt signal independently of Axin degradation by inhibiting GSK3''s phosphorylation of {beta}-catenin. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2008 PMCID:2430354

Cselenyi, CS, Lee, E. Context-dependent activation or inhibition of Wnt-beta-catenin signaling by Kremen. Sci Signal, 1(8), pe10, 2008

Moore, AC, Amann, JM, Williams, CS, Tahinci, E, Farmer, TE, Martinez, JA, Yang, G, Luce, KS, Lee, E, Hiebert, SW. Myeloid Translocation Gene Family Members Associate with TCFs and Influence TCF-Dependent Transcription. Mol Cell Biol, 2007 PMCID:2223385

Rickmyre, JL, Dasgupta, S, Ooi, DL, Keel, J, Lee, E, Kirschner, MW, Waddell, S, Lee, LA. The Drosophila homolog of MCPH1, a human microcephaly gene, is required for genomic stability in the early embryo. J Cell Sci, 120(Pt 20), 3565-77, 2007

Tahinci, E, Thorne, CA, Franklin, JL, Salic, A, Christian, KM, Lee, LA, Coffey, RJ, Lee, E. Lrp6 is required for convergent extension during Xenopus gastrulation. Development, 134(22), 4095-106, 2007

Lee, Laura A, Lee, Ethan, Anderson, Michael A, Vardy, Leah, Tahinci, Emilios, Ali, Siraj M, Kashevsky, Helena, Benasutti, Matt, Kirschner, Marc W, Orr-Weaver, Terry L. Drosophila Genome-Scale Screen for PAN GU Kinase Substrates Identifies Mat89Bb as a Cell Cycle Regulator. Dev Cell, 8(3), 435-42, 2005

Ivanovska, Irena, Lee, Ethan, Kwan, Kristen M, Fenger, Douglas D, Orr-Weaver, Terry L. The Drosophila MOS Ortholog Is Not Essential for Meiosis. Curr Biol, 14(1), 75-80, 2004

Tahinci, Emilios, Lee, Ethan. The interface between cell and developmental biology. Curr Opin Genet Dev, 14(4), 361-6, 2004

Lee, Ethan, Salic, Adrian, Kr??ger, Roland, Heinrich, Reinhart, Kirschner, Marc W. The Roles of APC and Axin Derived from Experimental and Theoretical Analysis of the Wnt Pathway. PLoS Biol, 1(1), E10, 2003 PMCID:212691

Lee, E, Salic, A, Kirschner, M W. Physiological regulation of [beta]-catenin stability by Tcf3 and CK1epsilon. J Cell Biol, 154(5), 983-93, 2001 PMCID:2196183

Pfleger, C M, Lee, E, Kirschner, M W, . Substrate recognition by the Cdc20 and Cdh1 components of the anaphase-promoting complex.. Genes Dev, 15, 2396-407, 2001 PMCID:312782

Pfleger, C M, Salic, A, Lee, E, Kirschner, M W. Inhibition of Cdh1-APC by the MAD2-related protein MAD2L2: a novel mechanism for regulating Cdh1.. Genes Dev, 15(14), 1759-64, 2001 PMCID:312740

Salic, A, Lee, E, Mayer, L, Kirschner, M W. Control of beta-catenin stability: reconstitution of the cytoplasmic steps of the wnt pathway in Xenopus egg extracts. Mol Cell, 5(3), 523-32, 2000

Berghuis, A M, Lee, E, Raw, A S, Gilman, A G, Sprang, S R. Structure of the GDP-Pi complex of Gly203-->Ala gialpha1: a mimic of the ternary product complex of galpha-catalyzed GTP hydrolysis.. Structure, 4(11), 1277-90, 1996

Mixon, M B, Lee, E, Coleman, D E, Berghuis, A M, Gilman, A G, Sprang, S R. Tertiary and quaternary structural changes in Gi alpha 1 induced by GTP hydrolysis.. Science, 270(5238), 954-60, 1995

Wall, M A, Coleman, D E, Lee, E, I??iguez-Lluhi, J A, Posner, B A, Gilman, A G, Sprang, S R. The structure of the G protein heterotrimer Gi alpha 1 beta 1 gamma 2.. Cell, 83(6), 1047-58, 1995

Coleman, D E, Berghuis, A M, Lee, E, Linder, M E, Gilman, A G, Sprang, S R. Structures of active conformations of Gi alpha 1 and the mechanism of GTP hydrolysis.. Science, 265(5177), 1405-12, 1994

Coleman, D E, Lee, E, Mixon, M B, Linder, M E, Berghuis, A M, Gilman, A G, Sprang, S R. Crystallization and preliminary crystallographic studies of Gi alpha 1 and mutants of Gi alpha 1 in the GTP and GDP-bound states.. J Mol Biol, 238(4), 630-4, 1994

Kleuss, C, Raw, A S, Lee, E, Sprang, S R, Gilman, A G. Mechanism of GTP hydrolysis by G-protein alpha subunits.. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 91(21), 9828-31, 1994 PMCID:44910

Lee, E, Linder, M E, Gilman, A G. Expression of G-protein alpha subunits in Escherichia coli.. Methods Enzymol, 237, 146-64, 1994

Ueda, N, I??iguez-Lluhi, J A, Lee, E, Smrcka, A V, Robishaw, J D, Gilman, A G. G protein beta gamma subunits. Simplified purification and properties of novel isoforms.. J Biol Chem, 269(6), 4388-95, 1994

Lee, E, Taussig, R, Gilman, A G. The G226A mutant of Gs alpha highlights the requirement for dissociation of G protein subunits.. J Biol Chem, 267(2), 1212-8, 1992

Doyle, K E, Kovalick, G E, Lee, E, Beckingham, K. Drosophila melanogaster contains a single calmodulin gene. Further structure and expression studies.. J Mol Biol, 213(4), 599-605, 1990

Hofmann, S L, Brown, M S, Lee, E, Pathak, R K, Anderson, R G, Goldstein, J L. Purification of a sarcoplasmic reticulum protein that binds Ca2+ and plasma lipoproteins.. J Biol Chem, 264(14), 8260-70, 1989

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