August 2022

Cell Morphological Regulation of Oncogenic Ras Signaling

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has awarded Gabriel Muhire Gihana the Hanna Gray Fellowship. This highly competitive award will support Dr. Gihana’s research for a total of eight years, funding both his postdoctoral training and early-faculty phases.

Dr. Gihana’s research focuses on elucidating the poorly understood function of cell shape in regulating oncogenic signaling. He joined the Danuser laboratory at UT Southwestern Medical Center in March 2020, after completing his doctoral studies at Indiana University, Bloomington. Dr. Gihana is also a recipient of the Damon Runyon Fellowship Award.

RAS proteins affect more than 20% of all human cancers, and they have proven challenging to address therapeutically. In certain contexts, oncogenic RAS proteins are known to alter cell shape profoundly. This alteration of cell shape has been observed as an output of RAS-driven cellular transformation for almost four decades, and Dr. Gihana now poses a question whether the phenomenon is important for the amplification of RAS oncogenic signaling itself rather than just a mere effect of signaling. By leveraging the interdisciplinary expertise in the Danuser, Dean, Fiolka, and Sorrell laboratories, Dr. Gihana combines cell biology, biochemistry, advanced imaging, and computational techniques to explore the potential causal relationships between cell shape and the molecular signaling of oncogenic RAS. Dr. Gihana’s research has the potential to illuminate crucial cell shape parameters that mediate RAS oncogenesis, which will inform the development of novel and effective therapies against RAS cancers.

human fibroblasts cells with oncogenic ras Cell shape of a human fibroblast cell transformed with oncogenic RAS