Anne-Claude Gingras

Canada Research Chair in Functional Proteomics

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2011-10-01
University of Toronto
Canadian Institutes of Health Research


Coming to Canada From

Institute for Systems Biology, Seattle, Washington, USA

Research involves

Investigating a family of proteins that interrupt signals inside cells and developing new tools to study the biology of these proteins.

Research relevance

The research aimed at understanding these proteins may help eliminate resistance to cancer drugs.

Callus Interruptus

Your body is a giant switchboard made up of millions of cells constantly communicating with each other by relaying signals. Anne-Claude Gingras, the Canada Research Chair in Functional Proteomics, is playing operator, trying to intercept a few phone calls.

Gingras studies phosphatases, a family of proteins known to interrupt cellular signals. Cell proteins, each with their own unique shape and function, perform all kinds of tasks inside cells including cellular communication: Some relay signals, some cause signals to be amplified in a sort of cascading chain reaction, and some, like phosphatases, interrupt signals, effectively "hanging up" a cellular telephone call.

The interruptions caused by the phosphatases are not all bad. For example, if the signal will cause problems down the line, the actions of the phosphatases can be good news. But how does all this apply to Gingras' research? Well, Gingras is exploring the body's resistance to anti-cancer drugs. Cells that are chronically exposed to these drugs often become resistant, so Gingras hopes to develop a protein inhibitor that intercepts the signals that tell those cells to resist. Hence, her interest in the phosphatases.

Gingras carries out her work using the University of Toronto's state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, a device that measures the mass of proteins and helps researchers identify and classify them.

In addition to conducting her own research into phosphatases, Gingras is developing specialized mass spectrometry tools to help study signalling molecules. She hopes her tools will help other researchers as well in their efforts to analyze protein interaction and communication.