Faculty A-Z

Michael Leitges

PhD, Full Professor, Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Cell Signaling and Translational Medicine, Senior Scientist of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute

BioMedical Sciences

(709) 864-6635


Craig L Dobbin Genetics Research Centre | Room 5M320 Memorial University of Newfoundland Health Science Centre 300 Prince Philip Drive St. John`s, Newfoundland, Canada A1B 3V6

Intracellular signal transduction is an essential process within a cell, enabling it to communicate with its environment. This form of communication can be divided into many different mechanisms that use a variety of signaling pathways. One well-established pathway in this context is exemplified by the classical model of a surface receptor, which is activated by ligand binding and transmits the signal to the cell nucleus or other cellular locations, thereby enabling the cell to react on the outside stimulus.

The focus of our research group are molecules, called kinases, representing key components within these so-called signaling cascades by transferring signals via specific phosphorylation events. Thereby kinases can activate or inactivate individual proteins as a result of phosphorylation and therefore serve as transduction switches within a cell.

A family of kinases in our particular focus is the protein kinase C (PKC) family. PKCs constitute a family of genes with 9 members in total resulting in at least 12 different isoforms. Individual isoforms have been linked to many physiological important functions in a healthy cell but also its occasional occurring faulty activation can lead to many disease associated cellular misbehaviour. Since PKCs have been associated with growth control, proliferation and cell death it is obvious to assume that they also play a pivotal role in cancer development and progression as this is caused by at least one alteration in the above mentioned processes.

Based on this fact, one of our focus in the past was to identify and characterize PKCs in vivo function in the context of cancer research. As a major tool for this analysis we have established genetically modified mouse models helping us to unravel PKC mediated signaling pathways which are altered in cancer. More recently we have been able to link PKC signaling to another kinase (PKD, Protein Kinase D) and thereby providing evidences that this link is affiliated to not yet recognized pathways, mandatory for a tumour to develop and survive.

Current projects in the group are focusing on the further characterization of:

  • the role of the PKC/PKD signaling axis during ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) mediated apoptotic processes and
  • PKD3’s function during the cell cycle and cytokinesis, primarily in the context of cancer development.

One future goal is to develop new drugs which interfere with the indicated functions, thereby providing a more specific therapeutic treatment of cancer patients.

Further details
- see lab specific webpage: under construction
- recent publications at Pubmed

At any time we welcome inquiries from undergraduate, graduate students and postdocs. Highly motivated, collaborative trainees with an interest in studying kinase related signal transduction of oncogenic signaling in cancer are encouraged to reach out.
If you are a graduate student, please send an email to mleitges@mun.ca about your research interests. If you are seeking a postdoc position, please email us with your CV, three reference contacts, and research interests.