The Unit on Cellular Communication, headed by Mihaela Serpe, investigates molecular mechanisms that regulate cellular signaling during development, using the Drosophila system. The group focuses on signaling by TGF-beta factors and on genes that modulate the function and distribution of the signaling ligands in time and space. Formation of BMP morphogen gradients requires opposing actions of Tld/BMP-1 enzymes and their substrate Sog in Drosophila and Chordin in vertebrates. The group showed that several residues at the processing site are responsible for making Sog (and not Chordin) dependent on BMP binding for its processing and degradation. Mutations of these residues render Sog independent of co-substrate for processing by Tld in vitro and reduce the in vivo range of the Sog-BMP complexes in Drosophila embryos, altering the shape of the BMP morphogen gradient.
Kim YJ, Bao H, Bonanno L, Zhang B, Serpe M., (2012) Drosophila Neto is essential for clustering glutamate receptors at the neuromuscular junction. Genes Dev. 26:974-87. Epub 2012 Apr 12. (Cover Image).
Peluso CE, Umulis D, Kim YJ, O'Connor MB, Serpe M., (2011) Shaping BMP morphogen gradients through enzyme-substrate interactions. Dev Cell. 21:375-83. (Featured Article).
Commentary in Nature Chem Biol 7:655.
Serpe, M., Umulis, D., Ralston A., Chen, J., Olson, D.J., Avanesov, A., Othmer, H., O'Connor, M. B., and Blair, S. S. (2008) The BMP binding protein Crossveinless 2 is a short-range, concentration dependent, biphasic modulator of BMP signaling in Drosophila. Dev Cell. 14:940-53.
Serpe, M., and O'Connor, M. B. (2006). The metalloprotease Tolloid-related and its TGF-β-like substrate Dawdle regulate Drosophila motoneuron axon guidance. Development, 133:4969-4979.
Umulis, D., Serpe, M., O'Connor, M. B. and Othmer, H. (2006). Robust, bistable patterning of the dorsal surface of the Drosophila embryo. PNAS 103:11613-8.
Serpe, M., Ralston A., Blair S.S., O'Connor M.B. (2005). Matching catalytic activity to developmental function: Tolloid-related processes Sog in order to help specify the posterior crossvein in the Drosophila wing.Development 132:2645-56.