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Jessica Maiers

Mentor: Kris DeMali, Ph.D.
Lab Room: 4-411 BSB
Lab Phone: 319-335-7662

Interaction between ZO-1 & α-catenin may provide the link between adherens and tight junctions

Most cancer deaths arise from the metastasis of a primary tumor to a distant site. In order to invade and metastasize, cell-cell junctions must be disrupted, allowing cells to detach from one another. Tight junctions and adherens junctions mediate cellular adhesion and thus are attractive targets for clinical intervention. E-cadherin-based adherens junctions regulate the formation of tight junctions. However, it is unclear how these two junctions are linked and the mechanism of regulation is unknown. Evidence suggests that α-catenin may provide the linkage between tight and adherens junctions by virtue of its ability to associate with E-cadherin and the tight junction protein ZO-1. My hypothesis is that α-catenin binding to ZO-1 links tight and adherens and that disruption of this linkage drives tumor cell invasion and metastasis. The long term goal of my project is to elucidate the role of α-catenin in mediating the linkage of adherens junctions to tight junctions. To achieve this goal I will complete the following aims:

1. Determine the residues on α-catenin that are required for ZO-1 binding.

2. Determine the effects of loss of ZO-1 binding to αcatenin on cell-cell junctions.

3. Determine the role of the ZO-1-α-catenin interaction in tumor cell invasion and metastasis.


Peng X, Maiers JL, Choudhury D, Craig SW, Demali KA. Alpha catenin uses a novel mechanism to activate vinculin. J Biol Chem. 2012 Jan 10. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 22235119.

Peng X, Nelson ES, Maiers JL, DeMali KA. New insights into vinculin function and regulation. Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2011;287:191-231. Review. PubMed PMID:21414589.

Honors and Awards

  • Molecular & Cellular Biology Retreat Travel Award 2011
  • American Heart Predoctoral Fellowship 2012-13