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Paul J. Higgins , Ph.D.
Professor & Director


1976 - Ph.D. from New York University

Current Research

Cell shape, proliferation and differentiation programs are regulated largely by complex interactions between growth factors and elements of the extracellular matrix. Molecular genetic studies in this laboratory identified proteins encoded by the mammalian p52PAI-1 gene family as key elements in the regulation of cell shape, motility, growth control and tissue invasion. Expression of the p52PAI-1 genes is controlled in both proliferation- and differentiation-dependent fashions by specific growth factors via Src/MAP kinase/rho-mediated signal transduction pathways. A unique pattern of cell cycle-related p52PAI-1 gene expression control has been defined. Growth factors of the TGF-ß and EGF families independently trans-activate the p52PAI-1 gene by means of distinct signaling pathways that utilize stimulus-specific transcriptional control mechanisms. The p52PAI-1 gene is regulated in a growth state-dependent fashion by the MYC/SMAD/USF/ TFE3 family of transcriptional activators that recognize specific promoter target sequences (E box motifs) to effect gene silencing or inducible expression. p52PAI-1 transcription in normal cells is relatively low but rapidly induced in emergency conditions such as tissue injury and wound repair under conditions necessitating cell growth, migration and extracellular matrix remodeling. In human cancers, p52PAI-1 functions as a tumor metastasis/pro-invasive gene and is a critical element in disease progression. Studies in PAI-1 null mice indicate that PAI-1 expression is required for normal as well as pathologic angiogenesis, tumor invasion and vascular network stability. Current investigations in the laboratory bridge two major research themes (vascular biology/angiogenesis and tumor growth/ metastasis) with an emphasis on p52PAI-1 involvement and development of molecular genetic therapies for vascular and neoplastic diseases. Present work focuses on analyais of the p52PAI-1 signal transduction pathway, clarifying molecular mechanisms underlying growth state-associated transcriptional control, definition of gene structure, and elucidating the role of p52PAI-1 in cell growth regulation and tumor angiogenesis.


  1. Providence KM, White LA, Tang J, Goncalves J, Staiano-Coico L, Higgins PJ: Epithelial monolayer wounding stimulates binding of USF-1 to an E-box motif in the plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 gene. J Cell Sci 115:3767-3777, 2002.

  2. Samarakoon R, Higgins CE, Higgins SP, Kutz SM, Higgins, PJ: Plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1 gene expression and induced migration in TGF-ß1-stimulated smooth muscle cells is pp60c-src/MEK-dependent. J Cell Physiol 204:236-246, 2005.

  3. Kortlever RM, Higgins PJ, Bernards R: Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 is a critical downstream target of p53 in the induction of replicative senescence. Nature Cell Biol 8:877-884, 2006.

  4. Qi L, Allen RR, Lu Q, Higgins CE, Staiano-Coico L, Higgins PJ: PAI-1 transcriptional regulation during the G0 to G1 transition in human epidermal keratinocytes. J Cell Biochem 99:495-507, 2006.

  5. Wilkins-Port CE, Higgins CE, Freytag J, Higgins SP, Carlson JA, Higgins PJ: PAI-1 is a critical upstream regulator of the TGF-ß1/EGF-induced invasive phenotype in mutant p53 human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma. J Biomed Biotech 2007:85208, 2007.