Gregory Rogers, PhD, awarded 5-year, $1.4 million R01 grant to study centriole amplification

April 28, 2015

University of Arizona Cancer Center research scientist Gregory C. Rogers, PhD, was recently awarded a 5-year, $1.4 million R01 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for his project titled, “Identifying molecular mechanisms that suppress centriole amplification.”

“Ultimately, I hope that this work will reveal new insights into the centrosome duplication process as well as new drug targets to combat cancer,” Dr. Rogers said.

For the past handful of years, Dr. Rogers’ lab has established itself at the forefront of the study of centrosome duplication and the role of the Polo-like kinase 4 (Plk4) pathway in chromosomal instability and the biogenesis of centrioles.

“This grant funds a project focused on basic science where we explore how normal cells work to maintain the integrity of their genomes,” Dr. Rogers said. “Without a fundamental understanding of how normal cells grow, divide, and build and organize their organelles, then it is impossible to understand the changes that occur during disease and treat them.”

This is Dr. Rogers’ first R01 grant, and it serves as the culmination of many years worth of work publishing a variety of papers in a number of high-impact journals, as well as some well-timed pilot-project funding from the Phoenix Friends of the Arizona Cancer Center.

What does this grant mean to Dr. Rogers?

“In a word—survival,” Dr. Rogers said. “For me, obtaining grants has been the most difficult part of the job. This is my first NIH grant during my entire career and it took more than six years as a principle investigator to get this R01. This grant means I can continue to do what I love—train graduate students and perform research—at least for the next five years.”

Dr. Rogers is an Associate Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Arizona, and has been a member of the University of Arizona Cancer Center Cancer Biology Program since 2008. Dr. Rogers is also an Associate Professor with the BIO5 Institute.

Dr. Rogers’ research gained momentum in 2011 with the publication of his article in the Journal of Cell Biology, titled “The Protein Phosphatase 2A regulatory subunit Twins stabilizes Plk4 to induce centriole amplification,” the first research paper that Dr. Rogers published since establishing his own lab at the Cancer Center more than six years ago. This paper helped Dr. Rogers land his first major grant in April 2012, courtesy of the National Science Foundation, to further his research on the assembly of the centrosome — an organelle that can influence genomic instability and tumor formation.

In April 2013, Dr. Rogers published another paper in the Journal of Cell Biology, highlighting his laboratory’s groundbreaking work in the field of chromosome territories. His paper, titled “SCFSlimb ubiquitin ligase suppresses condensin II–mediated nuclear reorganization by degrading Cap-H2,” finding that a mutation in the SCFSlimb gene caused cells to have too much condensin II activity, leading to nuclear reorganization and distortions in the nuclear envelope — a set of circumstances that may leave a cell vulnerable to diseases such as Progeria (a rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children).

Earlier this year, groundbreaking work originating from his laboratory was featured in the Journal of Cell Biology and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These papers explored the link between Plk4 and Asterless—two conserved centriole proteins whose mis-regulation drives centriole amplification and potential tumor formation.

This study is supported by grant number 1R01GM110166-01A1 from the National Institutes of Health.

-Nick Prevenas, April 28, 2015