NYU’s Dr. Nadège Gouignard Awarded NIDCR Grant to Study Enzyme Involved in Development of Nervous System and Skull


Nadège Gouignard, PhD, assistant research scientist in the Department of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology at NYU College of Dentistry, has received a grant from the National Institute of Dental & Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to study the role of the enzyme MMP28 in the formation of the neural crest, a structure that gives rise to the skull and most of the peripheral nervous system. The two-year, $435,875 grant began December 15, 2019.

Matrix metalloproteinase 28, or MMP28, belongs to a family of enzymes known for their activity at the cell surface during development and in a number of diseases including cancer. MMP28 is involved in wound repair, central nervous system development, and immune system maturation, and faulty regulation of MMP28 has been linked to several cancers.

In the embryo, MMP28 is essential for the formation of the neural crest, the cells that contribute to the development of the peripheral nervous system, pigment cells in the skin, and the bones, cartilage, and connective tissue that make up the face. Dr. Gouignard’s work shows that MMP28 activity is required in the neural crest cells’ nuclei, but it is still unclear whether MMP28 function in the neural crest is restricted to this nuclear activity or whether MMP28 has a more conventional activity as well. Furthermore, the mechanisms by which MMP28 is internalized by neural crest cells and eventually shuttles to the nucleus are not known.

"The goal of this research is to dissect the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which nuclear MMP28 regulates neural crest formation," said Dr. Gouignard. "The project has the potential to reveal novel aspects of how MMP28 functions, and its role in controlling migratory cell behavior in normal and pathological situations."