Monte S. Willis

MD, PhD, Medicine-McAllister Heart Institute, UNC-Chapel Hill, Molecular Therapeutics

Medicine-McAllister Heart Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill
Molecular Therapeutics

Area of interest

Our laboratory investigates the role of the ubiquitin proteasome system in the process of protein quality control and muscle mass loss in cancer cachexia and heart disease. Specifically, we study the underlying mechanisms of muscle loss in cancer cachexia and test the efficacy of targeted therapies to protect against the resulting muscle loss and heart failure that results. For example, we’ve tested multiple experimental therapies that target NF-kB inhibition in animal models of cachexia to demonstrate the prevention of muscle specific ubiquitin ligases (MuRF1) have clinically relevant benefits in pre-clinical models. The broader focus of my laboratory is determining the role of MuRF1 and other ubiquitin ligases in the regulation of muscle-specific signaling processes and the regulation of nuclear receptors in cardiac health and disease in both in vitro and in vivo animal models. We have discovered that muscle-specific ubiquitin ligases (E3) regulate a host of intracellular signaling pathways by interacting directly with and tagging transcription factors, heat shock proteins, and sarcomere proteins to regulate cardiac metabolism, muscle mass, and sarcomere protein turnover in ways that are cardioprotective in disease models in vivo.

Awards and Honors

1997-2001 NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) MD/PhD Predoctoral
Fellowship Grant (F30)
2002-2004 NIH, National Institute of General Medical Studies (NIGMS), University of Texas Southwestern
Research Training Program in Burns, Trauma, and Critical Care Postdoctoral Fellowship (T32)
2011 American Society of Investigative Pathologists (ASIP) Cotran Early Career Investigator Award
2011-2015 Jefferson-Pilot Fellowship in Academic Medicine, University of North Carolina School of Medicine

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