Research in the Horvath laboratory focuses on signal transduction (Science's STKE page) and gene expression in mammalian cells. Specifically, we study the biology of a family of proteins called Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription, or STAT. STAT proteins reside in a latent state in the cytoplasm of cells, awaiting activating signals from a variety of growth factors, cytokines, and other stimuli. When a signal is received, STAT proteins become activated by tyrosine phosphorylation, which leads to their dimerization and nuclear translocation. The activated STATs are DNA binding transcription factors that bind to promoters of target genes and induce their transcription.
STAT proteins are evolutionarily conserved from slime molds to humans, and are key regulators of intercellular communication in multicellular organisms. As important regulators of fundamental cellular processes such as embryonic development, cell growth, cell death, adaptive and innate immunity, STAT proteins are biomedically important factors that have been implicated in many human diseases including cancer, inflammation, and immune deficiency.
Like the STAT family itself, the lab's research interests are diverse. However, much of the current work focuses on the STAT pathways activated by interferon (IFN), cytokines that regulate innate antiviral immunity. The IFN system provides a wealth of biological responses that are being dissected using tools of biochemistry and molecular biology. The host-pathogen interaction is being approached from two perspectives, cellular defense and pathogen offense.