Khuloud Jaqaman, PhD

  • Recruited to: The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Recruited from: Harvard Medical School
  • Award: First-Time, Tenure-Track Faculty Member

Dr. Khuloud Jaqaman received her B. Sc. in physics from Birzeit University in the West Bank, where she had the honor of being the graduation commencement valedictorian. She then did her Ph. D. in Biophysics from Indiana University Bloomington, where she did research in the field of molecular dynamics under the mentorship of Prof. Peter J. Ortoleva.

For her postdoctoral training, she decided to work at the interface between experimental cell biology and mathematical modeling; she had reached the conviction that the two approaches combined were much more powerful than each in isolation for advancing our understanding of cell biological systems. Thus, in 2003, she joined the group of Prof. Gaudenz Danuser at the Scripps Research Institute, funded in part by a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellowship. As she immersed herself in the world of cell biology, she became fascinated by questions of receptor organization in the plasma membrane and its role in transmembrane signal transduction. Most critically for her current research program, she did a single molecule study of the cell-surface scavenger receptor CD36 in macrophages, in collaboration with Sergio Grinstein (Toronto), for which she developed computer vision and data analysis tools which revealed that receptor dynamics in the plasma membrane are regulated by the cytoskeleton in a manner that enhances unligated receptor clustering, thus priming the cells to respond when exposed to ligand.

In 2009, Dr. Jaqaman took an instructor position in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School, after which, in 2013, she joined the Department of Biophysics at UT Southwestern Medical Center as an assistant professor. The goal of her research program is to understand the spatiotemporal organization of receptors in the plasma membrane at the single-molecule level, as a means to elucidate the critical first steps in transmembrane signal transduction. There is increasing evidence that cell surface receptors are highly organized within the plasma membrane through complex networks of inter-molecular interactions, yet how this receptor organization is achieved, how it influences transmembrane signal transduction in normal physiology, and how it is altered in cancer pathophysiology are questions of fundamental importance that remain largely unanswered. Her lab is particularly interested in the signaling pathways that regulate angiogenesis, the process of sprouting new blood vessels from the existing vasculature. During cancer progression, these pathways are disrupted to promote angiogenesis, thus supporting tumor growth and producing tortuous and leaky blood vessels that can facilitate cancer cell metastasis.

Advancing our understanding of the mechanisms of transmembrane signal transduction might suggest design principles for new classes of therapeutic agents that target the interactions between cell-surface receptors to initiate, modulate or inhibit intracellular signaling.In the specific case of tumor-associated angiogenesis, it might reveal new strategies to inhibit and/or normalize angiogenesis based on the cellular mechanisms that keep angiogenesis properly balanced in normal physiology.

Dr. Jaqaman is a member of the American Society for Cell Biology and the Biophysical Society.