Research focus / Impact
The overall goal of Dr. Gee’s research program is to understand how lipid signals impinge upon the actin cytoskeleton to regulate fundamental cellular processes such as cell shape, movement and the uptake of nutrients. The lab’s main focus is the study of an enzyme called diacylglycerol kinase zeta (DGKζ), which phosphorylates the lipid second messenger diacylglycerol (DAG) to yield phosphatidic acid (PA), both of which have important signaling roles in cells. DGKζ participates in a variety of signaling pathways, where it negatively regulates proteins activated by DAG or stimulates proteins activated by PA. Accumulating evidence suggests such regulation occurs locally within regulated signaling complexes that DGKζ forms with its target proteins. Published findings from the lab show that DGKζ regulates the activity of two different Rho GTPases, Rac1 and RhoA. Rho GTPases are key regulators of actin organization in mammalian cells and drive many dynamic aspects of cell behaviour, including morphological changes, migration, phagocytosis and cytokinesis. Dr. Gee’s lab is currently using a combination of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and advanced microscopic methods to study the role of DGKζ role in cancer cell migration, axon outgrowth and guidance, and skeletal muscle cell fusion and hypertrophy.
Accomplishments / Awards
During his postdoctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Dr. Gee was awarded a prestigious Human Frontier Science Program Long term Fellowship. Dr. Gee has since held a CIHR Investigator New Investigator (2000-2005) and a Premiere’s Research Excellence (2004-2009) award.
Dr. Gee’s research has been supported by the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), the Cancer Research Society of Canada (CRS) and the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA).