J. Michael Bishop

University of California, San Francisco

Primary Section: 41, Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology
Membership Type: Member (elected 1980)

Research Interests

An elaborate circuitry of biochemical reactions mediates the proliferation and differentiation of vertebrate cells. We have gained access to this circuitry through the study of genes implicated in the genesis of human cancer: proto-oncogenes, which suffer dominate genetic damage in cancer cells, leading to an unwanted gain of function; and tumor suppresser genes, which typically suffer recessive damage, leading to loss of function. Proto-oncogenes serve as accelerators to drive cellular proliferation, whereas tumor suppresser genes serve as brakes on proliferation. Both sorts of genes can also figure in the control of differentiation. Several of the genes we study encode signal transmitters in the cryptopalsm, such as protein kinases and GTPases. Others encode nuclear proteins that appear to be transcription factors. We pursue the function and biological significance of these proteins through a combination of tools taken from biochemistry, cell and molecular biology, and genetics. Our experimental systems are diverse, including yeast, mammalian cells in culture, fruit flies, and transgenic mice. But all are deployed for the same purpose--to determine how normal cells govern their growth and development and why cancer cells do not.

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