Grace Pavlath, PhD

Professor

Emory University School of Medicine

Office: 5027 Rollins Research Center

Phone: 404-727-3353; Lab Number: 404-727-3590

Fax: 404-727-0365

Email: gpavlat@emory.edu

Additional Contact Information

Mailing Address:

Emory University School of Medicine

Department of Pharmacology
1510 Clifton Road, Rollins Research Center Room 5027

Atlanta, Georgia 30322-3090

Education

  • PhD, Stanford University, 1985
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, Stanford University, 1985-1986
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Arizona, 1986-1989

Biography

Research Area:
Muscle stem cells, muscle regeneration, cell signaling,  muscular dystrophy
Research Interests:
Skeletal muscle comprises 40-50% of the human body. Adequate muscle mass is vital for human health. Loss of muscle mass results in weakness and impaired mobility and/or breathing, severely impacting on the quality of life. Such muscle loss occurs in diseases such as cancer or neuromuscular disorders, prolonged bed rest, injury and during human aging. The Pavlath lab studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate muscle growth and repair. A combination of molecular, cellular, biochemical, in vitro and in vivo approaches are used in our laboratory. We are especially interested in studying the stem cells within adult muscles that are necessary for muscle growth and repair. These studies will ultimately lead to therapies to prevent muscle wasting and enhance muscle repair and growth in disease, injury and aging.

Our research focuses on 4 main areas:

Myogenic stem cells. Muscle tissue is composed of bundles of multinucleated myofibers (Figure 1). Underneath the basal lamina that surrounds each myofiber are satellite cells, myogenic stem cells that are responsible for normal muscle growth and regeneration. Satellite cells are normally quiescent but re-enter the cell cycle and proliferate in response to growth factors. These proliferating cells, or myoblasts, undergo differentiation and then migrate to fuse with each other or with existing myofibers. We study the molecular mechanisms that regulate satellite cell behavior. Current projects deal with the regulation of satellite cell fate, proliferation, migration, differentiation, and fusion.

Regulation of nuclear transport. Very few cells in the body are multinucleated. Myofibers contain hundreds of nuclei but how nuclear entry and exit of proteins and mRNA are coordinated among these nuclei is unknown. In collaboration with Dr. Anita Corbett’s lab we are studying the regulation of nuclear transport in multinucleated muscle cells. In addition, we are studying how mutations in a nuclear RNA binding protein called PABPN1 lead to a muscle disease called oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy that specifically affects muscles of the eye and pharynx (swallowing muscles).

Calcineurin/NFAT dependent signaling. Calcineurin is a calmodulin-dependent protein phosphatase that is activated by increases in intracellular calcium. Calcineurin activity is necessary in several aspects of muscle biology. One downstream target of calcineurin is the transcription factor NFAT. We study the role of the calcineurin/NFAT pathway in regulating myogenesis. Current projects deal with the study of the upstream signals that activate this pathway as well as the downstream gene targets of NFAT that are necessary for regulating myogenesis.

Muscle growth and repair. Widely divergent stimuli can lead to loss of muscle. Current projects investigate the cellular processes and molecular signals by which muscle growth is regulated in vivo. These studies are important for developing effective pharmacologic or genetic therapies to enhance muscle growth.

Publications