Faculty Profiles

Frank Naya

Francisco J. Naya

Associate Professor of Biology
Member, Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute

PhD, Baylor College of Medicine, 1997
Areas of interest: cardiac development and disease, muscle regeneration, muscular dystrophy, mouse developmental biology, gene regulation
(617) 353-2469

Current Research

Our lab investigates the MEF2 transcription factor in muscle differentiation, homeostasis, and disease. MEF2 is an evolutionarily conserved regulator of muscle gene programs. The four mammalian MEF2 proteins, MEF2A, -B, -C, and -D are co-expressed in muscle and display similar transcriptional activities in vitro. Despite their similarities, loss-of-function studies in mice have revealed distinct phenotypes in the heart and skeletal muscle. Consistent with these observations, we have recently demonstrated that the four mammalian MEF2 proteins regulate overlapping but largely distinct gene programs in skeletal muscle differentiation. Exploring the downstream cellular processes controlled by the various MEF2 proteins will help us understand the complex gene regulatory networks in muscle development and disease.

Another area of investigation relates to the role of noncoding RNAs in skeletal muscle differentiation, regeneration, and muscular dystrophy. Muscular dystrophy is a severe muscle degenerative disease and one form of this disease is caused by a deficiency in dystrophin. Recently, we have identified a MEF2-regulated noncoding microRNA locus involved in skeletal muscle differentiation and regeneration, and its expression is dysregulated in dystrophin-deficient muscle.  Because the epigenetic pathways in muscular dystrophy are poorly understood we are investigating the potential role of this noncoding RNA locus in muscle degeneration and regeneration.

Courses Taught

  • BI 213 Intensive Cell Biology
  • BI 553 Molecular Biology 2

Selected Publications

  • Feng Y, Desjardins CA, Cooper O, Kontor A, Nocco SE, Naya FJ (2015) EGR1 Functions as a Potent Repressor of MEF2 Transcriptional Activity. PLoS One. 10(5):e0127641.
  • Estrella NL, Desjardins CA, Nocco SE, Clark AL, Maksimenko Y, Naya FJ (2015) MEF2 transcription factors regulate distinct gene programs in mammalian skeletal muscle differentiation. J Biol Chem. 290(2): 1256-68.
  • Estrella NL, Naya FJ (2014). Transcriptional networks regulating the costamere, sarcomere, and other cytoskeletal structures in striated muscle. Cell Mol Life Sci. 71(9):1641-56.
  • Snyder CM, Rice AL, Estrella NL, Held A, Kandarian SC, Naya FJ (2013) MEF2A regulates the Gtl2-Dio3 microRNA mega-cluster to modulate Wnt signaling in skeletal muscle regeneration. Development. 140(1):31-42.
  • Ewen EP, Snyder CM, Wilson M, Desjardins D, Naya FJ (2011) The Mef2A transcription factor coordinately regulates a costamere gene program in cardiac muscle.J Biol Chem. 2011 Aug 26;286(34):29644-53.
  • Kielbasa OM, Reynolds JG, Wu CL, Snyder CM, Cho MY, Weiler H, Kandarian S, Naya
    FJ (2011) Myospryn is a calcineurin-interacting protein that negatively modulatesslow-fiber-type transformation and skeletal muscle regeneration. FASEB J. 2011 Jul;25(7):2276-86.
  • McCalmon SA, Desjardins D, Ahmad S, Davidoff K, Snyder CM, Sato K, Ohashi K, Kielbasa O, Mathew M, Ewen EP, Gavras H, Walsh K, Naya FJ (2010) Modulation of angiotensin II-mediated cardiac remodeling by the MEF2A target gene Xirp2. Circ Res. 106(5):952-60.
  • Reynolds JG, McCalmon SA, Donaghey JA, Naya FJ (2008) Deregulated PKA signaling and myospryn expression in muscular dystrophy. J Biol Chem, 283(13):8070-4.

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