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Chapel Hill, NC – Christophe Guilluy, PhD, Wenjin Liu, PhD and JinZhu Duan, PhD are the first, second, and third place recipients of the Joseph S. Pagano Award for a paper by a postdoctoral fellow published in 2011.

The Pagano Award was established in 2002 to honor outstanding papers by postdoctoral fellows who are first authors of these papers. Winners are selected through a competitive process and are honored for their authorship of articles in high-impact journals.

The first place paper, authored by Christophe Guilluy, PhD, is “The Rho GEFs LARG and GEF-H1 Regulate the Mechanical Response To Force On Integrins,” published in Nature Cell Biology. Dr. Guilluy is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Keith Burridge, PhD. He earned his veterinary degree, MS, and PhD cell biology and physiology at the University of Nantes (France).

Rho proteins have been described as “molecular switches” and play a role in cell migration, cell proliferation, cell death, gene expression, and multiple other common cellular functions. Understanding the actions of Rho proteins is important to illuminating cellular mechanisms related to cancer, which is fundamentally a disease of cell misbehavior. When cells multiply too rapidly, multiply and migrate into inappropriate places in the body, do not die after their natural lifespan or create networks of blood vessels where they should not, cancer results.

Wenjin Liu, PhD, was honored with second place for “LKB1/STK11 Inactivation Leads to Expansion of a Prometastatic Tumor Subpopulation in Melanoma,” published in Cancer Cell. Dr. Liu is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Norman Sharpless, PhD. He earned his PhD in genetics at the University of Rochester.

Liu’s work demonstrates that inactivating a gene called LKB1 (or STK11) causes non-aggressive melanoma cells to become highly metastatic when tested in a variety of models using tumors from humans and mice.

JinZhu Duan, PhD, received third place for “Wnt1/βcatenin Injury Response Activates the Epicardium and Cardiac Fibroblasts to Promote Cardiac Repair,” published in European Molecular Biology Organization Journal.

Dr. Duan is a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Arjun Deb, MD. He earned his PhD at the Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (Beijing, China) and completed a previous postdoctoral fellowship in pharmacy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.

“This year was again exceptional for the outstanding papers that were submitted,” said selection committee chair, Bernard Weissman, PhD. “We look forward to receiving the articles for next year.”