Faculty Information

Rodrigo S. Lacruz, MSc, PhD

Molecular Pathobiology
Room 916 Dental Center, 421 First Avenue
Phone: 212-998-9433
E-mail: rodrigo.lacruz@nyu.edu

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PhD, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2007
MSc, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa 2002

Research Interests / Professional Overview

The main research focus of my lab is to identify processes affecting the development and mineralization of dental enamel in the context of calcium and redox homeostasis, a process that also involves mithchondrial and ER calcium signaling. My research combines molecular biology, physiology, confocal and electron microscopy, genetics and morphology to identify key growth processes and pathways focusing largely on the intracellular environment of enamel cells.

An important mechanism under investigation relates to the modulation of calcium transport by the enamel cells, called ameloblasts. Calcium is critical for the development of enamel, but how calcium enters the enamel cells and how is then moved into the extracellular compartment where crystals grow remains poorly understood. The main pathway investigated in my lab is the calcium release activated calcium (CRAC) channels. This pathway is activated upon loss of calcium from the endoplasmic reticulum lumen. CRAC channels are formed by the ER-membrane bound STIM1 protein, and the plasma membrane, the pore subunit, ORAI1 protein. Activation of CRAC channels results in a sustained influx of calcium into the cell. This calcium elevation also has a role in signaling, and in enamel cells in vitro, modulates the expression of enamel genes. Mutations in STIM1 or ORAI1 genes result in severe combined immune deficiency, ectodermal dysplasia and amelogenesis imperfecta. To investigate the role/s of STIM1 and ORAI1 we have analyzed the enamel phenotype and the ameloblasts of CRAC channel-deficient mice.

In ameloblasts cells, the enamel forming cells, CRAC channels are important players in mitochondrial function and cell redox, processes that are virtually unknown in enamel.

I am also interested in mechanism of facial growth. In particular, in the processes mediating the growth of the maxillary complex, using animal models and the hominin fossil record to better understand constraints and plasticity of rostral form. Our goal is to assess key growth determinants in the evolution of the facial complex.

Current Funding

R01. Role: PI. NIDCR (2016-2021). Title: Calcium control of enamel development.

R01. Role: PI. NIDCR (2018-2022). Title: Redox and Ca2+ signaling regulation of enamel mineralization.  

Past funding:

K99/R00 Career Development Award NIDCR (2012-2016).  

Representative Publications

(selected from a total of 60 publications)

Complete listing available on the NYU Health Sciences Library site.

2017: Lacruz RS, Habelitz S, Wright TJ, Paine ML. Dental Enamel Formation and Implications for Oral Health and Disease. Physiol Rev

2017: Lacruz RS. Enamel: Molecular identity of its transepithelial ion transport system. Cell Calcium. PMID: 28389033, DOI: 10.1016/j.ceca.2017.03.006

2017: Eckstein M, Vaeth M, Fornai C, Bromage TG, Vinu M, Nurbaeva MK, Sorge J, Idaghdour Y; Feske S, Lacruz RS. Store-operated Ca2+ entry (SOCE) controls ameloblast cell function and enamel development. Journal of Clinical Investigation-Insight. 2(6):e91166.­­­

2017: Vaeth M, Yang J, Yamashita M, Zee I, Eckstein M, Kaufmann U, Knosp C, Lacruz RS, Prakriya M, Feske S. ORAI2 modulates store-operated calcium entry (SOCE) and T cell-mediated immune responses. Nature Communications. doi: 10.1038/ncomms14714. PMID: 28294127.

2016: Concepcion AR, Vaeth M, Wagner II LE, Eckstein M, Hecht, Yang J, Crottes D, Seidl M, Shin HP, Weidinger C, Cameron S, Turvey SE, Issekutz T, Meyts I, Lacruz RS, Cuk M, Yule DI, Feske S. Store-operated Ca2+ entry regulates Ca2+-activated chloride channels and eccrine sweat gland function. Journal of Clinical Investigation 26:4303-4318. PMID: 27721237.

2016: Nurbaeva MK, Eckstein M, Feske S, Lacruz RS. Calcium signaling and transport in dental enamel cells. Review. J. Physiology. PMID: 27510811.

2016: Kuhn BF, Hartstone-Rose A, Lacruz RS, Herries A, Werdelin L, Bamford MK, Berger LR. The carnivore guild circa 1.98 million years: biodiversity and omplications for the paleoenvironment of Malapa, South Africa. Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments. DOI 10.1007/s12549-016-0245-0.

2016: Leece AB, Kegley AD, Lacruz RS, Herries AI, Hemingway J, Kgasi L, Potze S, Adams JW. The first hominin from early Pleistocene paleocave of Haasgat, South Africa. PeerJ May11 e2014: PMID: 27190720

2016: Bromage TG, Idaghdour Y, Lacruz RS, Crenshaw T, Ovsiy O, Rotter B, Hoffmeir K, Schrenk F. Metabolic profiling reveals mammalian long period biological timing. Plos One. e0145919. PMID: 26735517.

2015: Lacruz RS, Bromage TG, O'Higgins P, Arsuaga JL, Stringer C, Godinho R, Warshaw J, Martinez I, Gracia Tellez A, Bermudez de Castro JM, Carbonell E. Ontogeny of themaxilla in Neanderthals and their ancestors. Nature Communications 6: 8996.

2015: Lacruz RS, Feske S. Diseases caused by mutations in ORAI1 and STIM1 genes. Annals New York Acad. Sci. doi: 10.1111/nyas.12938

2015: Lacruz RS, Bromage TG, O'Higgins P, Warshaw J, Berger LR. Distinct nasomaxillary growth in Australopithecus sediba. Scientific Reports. 5, 15175; doi: 10.1038/srep15175.

2015: Nurbaeva MK, Eckstein M, Smith CE, Srikanth S, Paine ML, Gwack Y, Feske S, Hubbard MJ, Lacruz RS. Dental Enamel cells express SOCE channels. Scientific Reports. 5:15803 DOI: 10.1038/srep15803

2015: Nurbaeva MK, Eckstein M, Snead ML, Feske S, Lacruz RS. Enamel gene expression is mediated by SOCE. Journal of Dental Research. Vol 94:1471-1477.

2013: Lacruz RS, Brookes SJ, Wen X, Jimenez JM, Vikman S, Hu P, White SN, Lyngstadaas P, Okamoto C, Smith CE, Paine ML. "Adaptor Protein Complex 2 (AP-2) Mediated, Clathrin Dependent Endocytosis, And Related Gene Activities, Are A Prominent Feature During Maturation Stage Amelogenesis". Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 28(3):672-687.

2013: Lacruz RS, Bermudez de Castro JM, Martinon-Torres M, O'Higgins P, Carbonells E, Arsuaga JM, Bromage TG. "Facial morphogenesis of the earliest Europeans". PloS ONE. Jun 6;8(6):e65199.

2013: Lacruz RS, Smith CE, Kurtz I, Hubbard MJ, Paine ML. "New paradigms on the transport function of maturation stage ameloblasts". Critical Reviews of Oral Biology and Medicine. Journal of Dental Research, vol 92: 122-129.

2012: Hu P, Lacruz RS, Paine ML. "Ameloblast-derived NCKX4 is upregulated during enamel maturation". Cells Tissues and Organs, vol 196: 501- 509.

2012: Lacruz RS, Ramirez-Rozzi FV, Wood BA, Bromage TG. "Cusp and crown areas in early Australopithecus". American Journal of Physical Anthropology: Brief Comm., vol 148: 632-640.

2012: Lacruz RS, Hacia JG, Bromage TG, Boyde A, Paine ML, Snead ML. "The circadian clock modulates enamel development". Journal of Biological Rhythms 27: 237-245.

2012: Lacruz RS, Smith CE, Hubbard MJ, Bringas P Jr, Chen, Y, Kurtz I, Snead ML, Paine ML. "Identification of novel candidate genes involved in mineralization of dental enamel by genome-wide transcript profiling". Journal of Cellular Physiology 227: 2264-2275.

2010: Lacruz RS, Nanci A, White SN, Wen X, Wang HJ, Zalzal SF, Luong VQ, Schuetter V, Conti PS, Paine ML. "The sodium bicarbonate contransporter (NBCe1) is essential for the normal development of mouse dentition". Journal of Biological Chemistry 285: 24432-24438.

2008: Lacruz RS, Dean MC, Ramirez-Rozzi FV, Bromage TG. "Megadontia, patterns of enamel secretion, and striae periodicity in Plio-Pleistocene fossil hominins". Journal of Anatomy 213: 148- 158.