Tierra Johnson


Molecular Medicine

Undergraduate Institution: Norfolk State University
Master’s Institution: University of the District of Columbia

Research Advisor: Toni Antalis, Ph.D.

Description of Research

My research is focused on understanding the molecular mechanism of the serine plasminogen activator inhibitor, SerpinB2 or PAI-2, and its role in autophagy and inflammation as it relates to the tumor cell and the stromal microenvironment. Previous work in our lab has illustrated a role for intracellular PAI-2 as an inhibitor of calpain-mediated cleavage events, and such events are necessary for many pro-proliferative, apoptotic, and autophagic responses. Understanding the role PAI-2 is playing in such processes will provide new insight into tumor biology with possible therapeutic implications. The long-term goal of our research is to better understand the biology of serine proteases and their inhibitors (serpins) and to investigate their potential as targets for diagnostic applications or rational drug-based therapies for cancer and vascular diseases. Proteases are powerful hydrolytic enzymes that mediate cleavage, activation and degradation of many cellular proteins, and therefore play fundamental roles in virtually every aspect of cell behavior, including survival, growth, differentiation, and malignant transformation. A detailed understanding of these proteases and how they interact with their inhibitors and other cell associated signaling molecules is necessary for our understanding of cell growth and regulation as it relates to cancer, angiogenesis and vascular diseases.