Francisco Naya, Ph.D.


Associate Professor of Biology, Associate Chair of Cell and Molecular Biology

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Lab Information

Publications Positions and Honors

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.