James M. Ervasti, Ph.D.
Dr. James M. Ervasti is a Solid Consultant
Distinguished Scholar and Research Director, Paul and Sheila Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Center University of Minnesota
Dr. Ervasti's laboratory primarily studies the structure and cellular function of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex, which spans the muscle cell plasma membrane (or sarcolemma) and links the cortical actin cytoskeleton with the extracellular matrix. Greater understanding of the physiologic role of the dystrophin-glycoprotein complex is necessary to understand how its absence or abnormality leads to Duchenne muscular dystrophy and forms of human dilated cardiomyopathy. The lab has defined the complete actin-binding region of 400 kDa dystrophin and shown that its homologue utrophin binds actin filaments through a distinct molecular mechanism. Novel methods to visualize the sarcolemmal cytoskeleton without interference from internal structures provided the first evidence that dystrophin functions in vivo to mechanically stabilize γ-actin filaments in costameres.
Studies of dystrophin-deficient mice and new animal models generated by the lab have provided insight into the function of costameres in striated muscle and suggest novel links between dystrophin deficiency and alterations in cell signaling, or gene expression manifest by dystrophic muscle. Hi lab’s unique capability to express biochemical amounts of full-length dystrophin and utrophin has made possible new studies to i) characterize the effects of dystrophy-causing point mutations on dystrophin structure/function, ii) to identify novel associated proteins and iii) to develop new protein-based therapies for dystrophinopathies.