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Assistant Scientist

Heather Lamb, PhD, studies how cells die in the context of health and disease.

Contact Info

615 N. Wolfe Street, Room E5646

Research Interests

BCL-2; apoptosis; membrane curvature; mitochondria

Experiences & Accomplishments
Washington University in St. Louis
University of Wisconsin-Madison

BCL-2 family members are regulators of programmed cell death and appear to have causal roles in several human cancers. The activities of BCL-2 proteins during the final minutes in a cell’s life are the focus of intense effort to understand the underlying molecular details. However, the functions of BCL-2 proteins in healthy cells are seldom investigated, despite increasing evidence that they have distinct “day jobs” that are crucial for normal cellular processes. For example, we have shown that the pro-survival BCL-2 family member, BCL-xL, regulates mitochondrial morphology, homeostasis, and synaptic activity in neurons, which we believe may influence the initial steps in neurodegeneration. The molecular mechanism underlying this function is unknown, but is suggested to be a more evolutionarily conserved function of BCL-2 proteins compared to their roles in regulating programmed cell death.

Cellular BCL-2 homologues are also predicted to alter membrane curvature, and our laboratory has demonstrated that BCL-xL and the related pro-death family member, Bax, can directly promote positive curvature of synthetic liposome membranes. During my postdoctoral training in Dr. J. Marie Hardwick’s laboratory, I developed a novel cell-based assay for examining the membrane shaping properties of BCL-2 proteins using the endoplasmic reticulum as a model membrane. By defining the curvature-promoting properties of BCL-2 family members in the ER, I provide further evidence that support the hypothesis that BCL-xL and Bax influence mitochondrial dynamics by directly manipulating lipid membranes. Other current efforts relate to understanding novel functions of the BCL-2 family members, BID and BCL2L12.

Beyond my research efforts, I have initiated an effort to organize the non-tenure track (NTT) faculty within our department with the objectives of: 1) Building a community of colleagues that fosters collaboration, exchange of resources and expertise, and camaraderie; 2) Enhance professional and research goals through the development of a peer mentoring system, writing accountability groups, and opportunities for NTT faculty to present their research; 3) Work with administration at the department and school level to better outline pathways to promotion (within the NTT track), as well as develop a formal recognition system for teaching and mentoring efforts in the laboratory; and 4) Expand our network to include NTT faculty members from other basic science departments across SPH and SOM.

Honors & Awards

Delta Omega Public Health Honorary Society Inductee (2021)

Gilbert F. Otto Young Investigators Fund Award recipient, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health (2012)

Dimitri V. d'Arbeloff Postdoctoral Fellowship in the Biological Sciences, Johns Hopkins University (2009-2010)

Predoctoral Trainee in the Lucille P. Markey Special Emphasis Pathway in Human Pathobiology, Washington University School of Medicine (2002-2004)

Select Publications

Most recent publications:

  • Lamb HM. Double agents of cell death: novel emerging functions of apoptotic regulators. FEBS J. 2020 Jul;287(13):2647-2663. doi: 10.1111/febs.15308. Epub 2020 Apr 11. Review. PubMed PMID: 32239637; NIHMSID:NIHMS1585325.

  • Lamb HM, Hardwick JM. The Dark Side of Estrogen Stops Translation to Induce Apoptosis. Mol Cell. 2019 Sep 19;75(6):1087-1089. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2019.08.022. PubMed PMID: 31539505.

  • Huska JD, Lamb HM, Hardwick JM. Overview of BCL-2 Family Proteins and Therapeutic Potentials. Methods Mol Biol. 2019;1877:1-21. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4939-8861-7_1. Review. PubMed PMID: 30535995.

  • Metz KA, Teng X, Coppens I, Lamb HM, Wagner BE, Rosenfeld JA, Chen X, Zhang Y, Kim HJ, Meadow ME, Wang TS, Haberlandt ED, Anderson GW, Leshinsky-Silver E, Bi W, Markello TC, Pratt M, Makhseed N, Garnica A, Danylchuk NR, Burrow TA, Jayakar P, McKnight D, Agadi S, Gbedawo H, Stanley C, Alber M, Prehl I, Peariso K, Ong MT, Mordekar SR, Parker MJ, Crooks D, Agrawal PB, Berry GT, Loddenkemper T, Yang Y, Maegawa GHB, Aouacheria A, Markle JG, Wohlschlegel JA, Hartman AL, Hardwick JM. KCTD7 deficiency defines a distinct neurodegenerative disorder with a conserved autophagy-lysosome defect. Ann Neurol. 2018 Nov;84(5):766-780. doi: 10.1002/ana.25351. Epub 2018 Nov 8. PubMed PMID: 30295347; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6295419.

  • Aouacheria A, Baghdiguian S, Lamb HM, Huska JD, Pineda FJ, Hardwick JM. Connecting mitochondrial dynamics and life-or-death events via Bcl-2 family proteins. Neurochem Int. 2017 Oct;109:141-161. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2017.04.009. Epub 2017 Apr 28. Review. PubMed PMID: 28461171; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC5641228.