Germ cells and cancer

Molecular mechanisms of stress protection in germ cells and cancer.


With our projects at the crossroads of
spermatogenesis and cancer, we want to identify the mechanisms behind the stress-protective function of type I melanoma antigens (MAGEs). 

Type I MAGEs are proteins that are normally expressed in the testis in healthy males but get activated in different types of tumors, hence called cancer-testis antigens. MAGEs attracted a lot of attention as potential targets for cancer immunotherapy. We have shown that they are expressed in germ cells at different stages of spermatogenesis and provide protection to germline against different stressors, e.g., DNA damage, nutrient stress, and heat. We now seek to understand the underlying molecular pathways and their role in cancer. 

Current projects goals are:

  • Discover the molecular mechanisms of MAGE-dependent metabolic plasticity and nutrient stress resistance. 
  • Determine the species-specificity of MAGE functions in animals and humans.
  • Uncover novel stress protective pathways using germline as a model.

Relevant publications:

  • Fon Tacer et al., Science Advances 2019
  • Lee et al., Mol Cell 2020
  • Florke Gee et al., JBC 2020
  • MAGE Atlas – http://MAGE.stjude.org

The figure depicts the expression of type I MAGE genes in the male germline.