Best Publication Awards to Dr Jade Peres, David Hume and Nicole Ellman

24 Nov 2016 - 16:30
Dr Jade Peres, David Hume and Nicole Ellman (from left)


The Department of Human Biology scooped major recognition for recent research output: Dr Jade Peres, David Hume and Nicole Ellman won Best Publication 2015 Awards from the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Cape Town. Congratulations to the three winners and all co-authors on the prize-winning publications.

Dr Jade Peres secured the Best Publication 2015 Award in the category "Early Career Award - Basic Sciences". The award recognised her publication "The T-box transcription factor, TBX3, is a key substrate of AKT3 in melanomagenesis", Oncotarget, 6(3):1821-33 [download].

The AKT3 signalling pathway plays a critical role in melanoma formation and invasion and components of this signalling cascade are therefore attractive targets for the treatment of malignant melanoma. Recent evidence show that the embryonically important TBX3 transcription factor is upregulated in a subset of melanomas and plays a key role in promoting melanoma formation and invasion, in part by repressing the cell adhesion molecule E-cadherin. We have identified as a key substrate of AKT3 in melanomagenesis. Briefly, using site-directed mutagenesis and in vitro kinase assays, we have identified the AKT3 target site at serine residue 720 in the TBX3 protein and show that this site is phosphorylated in vivo. Importantly, we show by western blotting, immunofluorescence, reporter, migration and invasion assays that the phosphorylation at S720 promotes TBX3 protein stability, nuclear localization, transcriptional repression of E-cadherin, and its role in cell migration and invasion. Our results identify a novel signalling and transcriptional network linking AKT3, TBX3 and E-cadherin during melanoma migration and invasion and reveals TBX3 as a potential target for anti-metastatic therapeutics.

Co-authors on this paper are Shaheen Mowla and Sharon Prince.

David Hume is winner of the Best Publication 2015 Award in the category "Postgraduate Award - Public Health and Health and Rehabilitation Sciences". He was successful with his paper “Electrophysiological indices of visual food cue-reactivity. Differences in obese, overweight and normal weight women”, Appetite 85:126-37 [download].

Whilst the socio-cultural, environmental and lifestyle-related factors contributing to the aetiology of obesity have been widely studied, our work published in "Appetite" is the first to show that levels and patterns of brain activity – as elicited by visual food cues – are different between persons of a normal weight, overweight and obese phenotype. This work represents Africa’s first EEG database sourced from persons with varying levels of body adiposity, and a PhD project which has pioneered the analysis and interpretation of never-before investigated electrophysiological indices (such as cortical rhythms and the latency of event-related potentials) which, prior to the outset of this work, remained unstudied worldwide in the fields of eating behaviour and obesity research. To our knowledge, our study is the first to demonstrate that – in comparison to their normal weight peers – visual food cues induce: (a) excess beta frequency power in persons of an overweight phenotype (indicative of increased sensory alertness, pronounced anticipatory attentional processing, and heightened early visual food cue-reactivity), and (b) a shortened event-related potential (ERP) latency response in persons with obesity (demonstrative of rapid activation of the neural circuitry responsible for conscious and maintained attentional processing of food-specific stimuli).

David's co-author for this paper are Fleur Howells, Laurie Rauch, Jacolene Kroff and Vicki Lambert.

Nicole Ellman won the Best Publication 2015 Award in the category "Postgraduate Award - Basic Sciences" for her  paper "Ethnic differences in the association between lipid metabolism genes and lipid levels in black and white South African women”, Atherosclerosis 240(2):311-7 [download].

Dyslipidaemia can lead to the development of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease (CVD), however its prevalence has been shown to differ between ethnic groups in South Africa (SA). The aim of this study was to investigate ethnic differences in the association between serum lipid levels and polymorphisms within genes involved in lipid metabolism in black and white SA women. The outcomes of this study revealed that polymorphisms within the LPL and CETP genes were associated with a more protective lipid profile in black, but not white SA women. This supports the hypothesis that the more favorable lipid profile of black compared to white SA women is associated with polymorphisms in lipid metabolism genes, specifically the LPL and CETP genes.

This paper was co-authored by Dheshnie Keswell, Malcolm Collins, Mehreen Tootla and Julia H. Goedecke.