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Research Abstracts Online
January - December 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
School of Dentistry
Department of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences

PI: Mark C. Herzberg

Oral Epithelial Cells and Innate Immunity: “Gatekeeper” of HIV and the Development of Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

These researchers are involved in two projects using MSI resources.

The oral mucosal epithelium is directly exposed to HIV during at-risk sexual activity and through breast-feeding. Unlike the intestinal epithelium, the oral mucosa is infrequently considered to be a locus of primary HIV infection. These researchers are interested in the interaction of HIV with oral epithelial cells, specifically, how HIV binds to and productively infects oral epithelial cells and how they are then able to transfer the virus to susceptible target cells. They are particularly interested in the intracellular events that promote or inhibit the stages of HIV infection and replication. Specific experiments include looking at receptors on the epithelial cell surface that bind HIV, investigating how HIV is taken up by the cell, discovering the fate of HIV within the cell, and the host-response gene profiling in association with HIV infection.

The second project investigates possible biomarkers for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The innate immune molecule calprotectin consists of S100A8 and S100A9 subunits and is differentially expressed in various types of cancer, but is generally down-regulated in HNSCC. When over-expressed in carcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo, calprotectin appears to suppress tumorigenesis by mediating cell cycle arrest at G2/M checkpoint. While calprotectin expression appears to be tissue-specific in cancer, it is still unclear if expression is correlated to other genes that are associated with tumor development. Since S100A8/S100A9 is involved in growth, motility, and chemotactic activities essential for tumor development, these researchers are interested in determining whether expression of calprotectin genes is associated with key genes responsible for tumorigenesis and malignant transformation of HNSCC. They sought to identify key multi-gene signatures that may serve as important biomarkers for early detection and as molecular targets to aid in the development of therapeutic strategies.

Group Members

Brian D. Guenther, Research Associate
Ali Khammanivong, Research Associate
Karen Ross, Research Associate
Brent S. Sorenson, Graduate Student