The Neel laboratory studies cell signaling, with a particular emphasis on protein-tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs). We also have a developing interest in normal and tumor stem cell signaling. The roles of the SH2 domain-containing phosphatase Shp2 and its binding proteins in several human diseases are a major focus.
Shp2 is expressed ubiquitously and is a positive signal transducer, required for Ras/Erk activation downstream of most receptor tyrosine kinases, cyotkine receptors, and integrins. Shp2 is required for a variety of developmental processes, including the survival of trophoblast stem cells, As a consequence of loss of the latter function, Shp2-null embryos die peri-implantation. In the absence of an appropriate phosphotyrosyl peptide, Shp2 is inactive, because the N-SH2 domain is inserted into the catalytic cleft of the phosphatase (PTP) domain. We showed earlier that mutations in the SH2/PTP interface can yield ''activated mutants''. Analogous mutations in humans cause 50% of cases of the autosomal dominant disorder Noonan Syndrome (NS), while somatic mutations cause some leukemias/myeloproliferative disorders (MPD).
Interestingly, another autosomal dominant disorder, LEOPARD syndrome, also is caused by Shp2 mutations, but surprisingly, we showed recently that such mutations are catalytically inactive/impaired and act as dominant negative mutants in transfection assays. We have generated an allelic series of inducible and stable NS and leukemia mutant knock-in mutants, as well as inducible Shp2 knockout mice and cell lines.