Research Headlines


Featured Investigator


Patrick Hu, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Research Specialty: 
Insulin signaling, aging, and proteostasis



Research Description:

We use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to reveal insights into insulin signaling and its role in aging and metabolism. A conserved insulin receptor/PI 3-kinase/Akt pathway controls C. elegans development, metabolism, and aging by regulating the activity of the FoxO transcription factor DAF-16. As FoxO transcription factors promote longevity in worms, flies, and mice, and common FoxO variants are associated with extreme longevity in humans, what we learn about DAF-16/FoxO function in C. elegans will likely illuminate roles of FoxO transcription factors in human aging and aging-related diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. Our work has focused on understanding how DAF-16/FoxO is regulated and identifying specific DAF-16/FoxO-dependent gene regulatory events that are associated with longevity. A recent genetic screen in C. elegans for new DAF-16/FoxO regulators has led to the unexpected discovery of roles for the conserved endoplasmic reticulum (ER) protein TRAPalpha/SSR1 in insulin biogenesis and ER homeostasis. We are now pursuing further studies in C. elegans and mice to gain insights into mechanistic underpinnings of protein translocation and the ER unfolded protein response.

Featured Article


Genetic screen in worms reveals critical step in insulin synthesis

Patrick Hu, MD, PhD, identified a previously unknown step in insulin synthesis, providing new clues to diabetes pathogenesis.