Genetic Analysis of Hox Transcription Factors and Cofactors in the Regulation of Programmed Cell Death in C Elegans
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It has been well established that blocking apoptosis can promote cancer. Throughout the animal kingdom, apoptosis is exquisitely regulated in cell-specific and context-specific ways to ensure proper development and tissue homeostasis. In many cases, transcriptional pathways carry out this regulation by mechanisms that are not completely understood. Studies of programmed cell death in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans provided an essential foundation for understanding the more complex pathways of apoptosis in mammals. More recent work, including my thesis research, has focused on the mechanisms that decide whether individual cells of C. elegans survive or undergo programmed cell death, and has revealed a striking concordance of transcription factors that regulate cell death and that cause cancer in humans when altered by mutation. These findings suggest that mutations affecting these transcriptional pathways can provide a survival advantage to cancer cells, and thus may represent promising novel therapeutic targets.