UT SOUTHWESTERN MEDICAL CENTER
DEPARTMENT of PHARMACOLOGY
PROTEOLYTIC MECHANISMS in CELL SIGNALING
Evidence across diverse phyla of metazoans depicts a new landscape for proteolytic factors, such as caspases, as not only effectors but key regulators of many cellular processes. In particular, genetic masking has hitherto limited our ability to observe many so-called "non-canonical" caspase functions that our work has recently brought to light. Now is an exciting time to be part of this rapidly emerging field.
The over-arching theme of the Weaver Lab is to deeply understand how proteolytic factors mediate diverse physiological functions. Along those lines, we have identified CED-3 caspase working to support a variety of cellular functions ranging from limiting symmetric divisions of a stem-like cell type during cell fate decisions to opposing p38 MAPK stress signaling and downstream gene expression program to promote development. We find that caspases often work with other regulatory pathways to achieve their non-canonical functions.
Current lines of inquiry include: (1) how a given caspase is able to distinguish cell death from cell vigor substrates, (2) how proteolytic factors sculpt gene expression dynamics and (3) what upstream inputs license one proteolytic function over another. Unmasking these mechanisms is critical to understanding diverse disease processes including cancers and degenerative diseases.
To tackle these and other challenging questions, we employ a cross-disciplinary approach including genetics, proteomics, metabolomics and biophysical analyses. The Weaver lab utilizes C. elegans, mammalian cell culture, and biochemical models. Equipped with powerful tools, we are setting out to understand how proteolytic factors execute a potentially vast array of functions.
DR. BENJAMIN WEAVER
DR. YI MIAO WEAVER
Sr. Research Scientist
Structure function studies of proteolytic factors
DR. WANG YUAN
Roles of caspases and p38 MAPK in development
DR. HAI WEI
Caspases in stress responses
FRANCISCO CALVA MORENO
MSTP Graduate Student
Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine Fellowship
UBR E3 ligases in development and disease
DBS Graduate Student
Neural Science Training Program Fellowship
Coming this Fall
WE ARE STILL RECRUITING!!
Grad Student applicants: Apply through the umbrella program and send Ben an email.
Post-Doc and Technician applicants: email Ben with your letter of interest.
2022 Aging Meeting
Current Priorities and Training Environment
The Weaver lab is interdisciplinary and employs state of the art CRISPR mutagenesis, genetic, biochemical, proteomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic, and imaging methods to analyze dynamic processes in development, aging and stress responses. Using C elegans, mammalian cell culture, and in vitro models, our goal is to understand how proteolytic factors regulate critical cell signaling decisions. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial to diverse disease etiologies including cancers, degenerative diseases, and developmental disorders. Our lab has exceptional facilities for advanced microscopy, cell culture, and molecular biology. Trainees joining the Weaver lab will learn cutting-edge methodologies in diverse disciplines. We have an array of ongoing studies with several areas of emphasis indicated below. Trainees will have distinct projects developed with substantial mentoring.
We recently unmasked a broad array of genes working with caspase outside of cell death. Using proteomic, genetic, and cell biological approaches, we are probing the network and mechanisms of caspases in sculpting cell signaling.
GENE EXPRESSION DYNAMICS
We recently showed CED-3 caspase and PMK-1 p38 MAPK balancing stress-responsive and developmental functions. We are using a big data approach including genomics, proteomics, and translatomics to understand how broadly caspases and p38 MAPKs act in gene expression dynamics.
Using genetic, biochemical, and genomic approaches we demonstrated a non-canonical caspase function working in parallel to the miRISC pathway was critical to ensure temporal cell fate patterning limiting symmetric cell divisions at a critical developmental window. We are expanding these studies to understand the roles of proteolytic factors in mediating cell fate decisions.
Throughout metazoans, caspases have been assoicated with stress responses. We recently showed how CED-3 caspase antagonizes activation of a pathogen response. We are using advanced CRISPR methods combined with omic approaches and advanced cell imaging to understand how developmental and stress-responsive states are dynamically regulated.
Across nematodes, flies, and mammals, classic cell death caspases have been found with critical non-canonical functions supporting cell vigor. We are using genetic and biochemical methods to understand how a given caspase with both cell death and cell vigor functions is differentially regulated.
We recently showed that the CED-3 caspase required a UBR-type E3 ubiquitin ligase to efficiently cleave and degrade LIN-28 in vivo. We further showed that the caspase and E3 ligase may form a complex. We are using biochemical and biophysical methods to understand how proteolytic factors recognize distinct substrates to achieve diverse functions.
Balancing p38 MAPK Signaling with Proteostasis Mechanisms Supports Tissue Integrity during Aging in C. elegans
Non-Canonical Caspase Activity Antagonizes p38 MAPK Stress-Priming Function to Support Development
Featured in Development or Disease: Caspases Balance Growth and Immunity in C. elegans
Tag team: Roles of miRNAs and Proteolytic Regulators in Ensuring Robust Gene Expression Dynamics.
Coupled Caspase and N-End Rule Ligase Activities Allow Recognition and Degradation of Pluripotency Factor LIN-28 during Non-Apoptotic Development.
Featured in Partners in Crime
Time to move the fat.
CED-3 caspase acts with miRNAs to regulate non-apoptotic gene expression dynamics for robust development in C. elegans.
Featured in Development: Cell Death Machinery Makes Life More Robust
Also featured in For Caspases, An Escape from Death
Ben was honored to come back to his alma mater to give the "Alvin Sarachek Research Seminar" to the Department of Biological Sciences at Wichita State University!
Francisco awarded fellowship from Hamon Center for Regenerative Science and Medicine!
Wang's first author paper posted on bioRxiv
Hai selected to give a talk at the Physiology retreat!
Francisco selected to give a talk at the CMB graduate symposium!
Weaver lab moved into its newly renovated space!
Francisco passed his qualifying exams!
Wang wins the Weaver Lab Spring Pretty Gel Competition!
Dr. Hai Wei joins the lab for post-doctoral studies!
Francisco Calva Moreno joins the lab for graduate studies!
Ben's MIRA grant funded through NIGMS!
Dr. Wang Yuan joins the lab for post-doctoral studies!
Ben's Welch Foundation grant funded!
Weaver Lab established!
Ben and Yi get to work in the Department of Pharmacology at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Ben and Yi worked in Min Han's HHMI lab at CU Boulder where we discovered a non-canonical function for CED-3 caspase --along with other proteolytic factors--in cell fate determination.
Food for Thought
Not too surprisingly, biochemistry was born out of early efforts to perfect the enzymology and chemistry behind the fermentation of grains, fruits and milk to generate the varieties of dough, beer, wine and cheese that we know today from around the globe. Here are a few glimpses of having some fun experimenting outside the lab.
TRADITIONAL PIE of CHINA by HAI
Power-packed gems filled with pork and cabbage. Seasoned with salt, soy sauce, oil, garlic, ginger, and green onion. Hai’s pro-tip: Make the outside bun with fermented dough. After lightly frying, pop these little party favorites into the oven for a crispy baked finish you won’t soon forget!
BEEF RAMEN NOODLES by YI
Fusion of ramen noodles seasoned lightly with onion and parsley for a hearty combo. Yi’s top-shelf ingredients…Tie this simple masterpiece together with Napa cabbage boiled in a soy-based broth. Add wood-smoked beef slices on top for a simple but super-delicious meal!
FAJITAS by FRANCISCO
Visually stunning arrangement of fajitas served with guacamole, beans, pico de galla and rice.
That’s not all! Francisco threw in a loaf of baked banana bread for a super-satisfying finish!
HOT POT by WANG
Traditional Chinese sensation that begins with a spicy soup stock and an assortment of meats, veggies, starchy noodles and you’re ready to roll! Wang's philosophy: best part is that you can add anything, this dish knows no limits! What more could you ask for?
NON-CANONICAL BARBECUE by BEN
Savory homemade marinades with thyme, cumin and bay leaf combined with hickory and cherry wood smoke for a decadent, savory flavor. How to plate? Ben likes to serve up his BBQ with grilled asparagus and homemade potato salad.
Hai joins the lab, New Years 2020!!!
Sorry Wang and Francisco...
We forgot to take pictures of your celebrations.
Interested in joining? We would love to hear from you.
benjamin.weaver [at] utsouthwestern.edu
This website reflects only the views of the author and is not a publication of UT Southwestern, which bears no responsibility for its content.
UT Southwestern Medical Center
6001 Forest Park Rd
Dallas, TX 75390