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President's Award to Distinguished Doctoral Students

Saul Siller, Pharmacological Sciences

Saul Siller Dissertation Title: The Centriolar Distal Appendage Proteins CEP164 and Chibby1 Coordinate Multiple Steps in the Formation and Maintenance of Airway Multicilia

Can you tell us, in general terms, about your research?

Multicilia are cellular projections that provide the motive force in airways, our nervous system, and the female reproductive tract.  Dysfunctional multicilia have been linked to genetic and non-genetic respiratory disorders. Unfortunately, very little is known about how multicilia form and function. 

Prior studies have implicated that a structure at the base of cilia termed the transition fiber (or distal appendage) is important. Therefore, to gain greater insight into its function, I utilized two unique mouse knockout models for the transition fiber proteins Chibby1 and CEP164. With these tools, I found that Chibby1 regulates intraflagellar transport, a process important for building and maintaining ciliary axonemes. Additionally, my work has determined that CEP164 is both necessary for mammalian development and limits the types of cellular membranes and membrane proteins that compose multicilia. These findings shed light on the physiological functions of the transition fiber and how transition fiber proteins function to build multicilia.

What excites you about your work?

As an MD/PhD student, I have a strong passion for understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of genetic disease as this class of disorders, in my opinion, is both understudied and an important resource to understand human biology. Hence, the use of genetic disease mouse models has always been a source of great pride and drive during my dissertation research.

How has your time at Stony Brook helped equip your for success?

During my time at Stony Brook, I have been the fortunate recipient of numerous mentors. The faculty at Stony Brook have always been forthcoming with their time and counsel. It is their support, which has given me a set of skills in all areas, scientific and otherwise, that will hopefully allow me to make a difference in all aspects of my future.

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