Vivian Gama
Faculty Member
Last active: 8/24/2020


Stem cells (both normal and cancerous) are defined by their ability to self-renew, in order to maintain their numbers, and their ability to differentiate into distinct cell types.  Our lab is interested in uncovering new pathways regulating stem cell properties. We are particularly interested in characterizing the functions of apoptotic proteins in stem cell biology. The mechanism of apoptosis is indispensable for organismal development and for eliminating cancer cells, and therefore preventing the formation of tumors. In fact, defects in the cell death pathway are considered a fundamental hallmark of all cancers. While the core components of the apoptotic pathway have been identified, fundamentally new paradigms of regulation and function of apoptotic proteins remain to be discovered in stem cells as well as cancer stem cells. Our research program is focused on three lines of research:

1) Role of apoptotic proteins as modulators of stem cell self-renewal, pluripotency and differentiation.

2)  Function of apoptotic proteins in maintaining the cancer stem cell pool.         

3) Mechanisms by which mitochondrial network dynamics regulate normal and cancer stem cell fate.


The following timeline graph is generated from all co-authored publications.

Featured publications are shown below:

  1. Break on Through: Golgi-Derived Vesicles Aid in Mitochondrial Fission. Rasmussen ML, Robertson GL, Gama V (2020) Cell Metab 31(6): 1047-1049
    › Primary publication · 32492390 (PubMed) · PMC8212386 (PubMed Central)
  2. A connection in life and death: The BCL-2 family coordinates mitochondrial network dynamics and stem cell fate. Rasmussen ML, Gama V (2020) Int Rev Cell Mol Biol : 255-284
    › Primary publication · 32381177 (PubMed) · PMC7331972 (PubMed Central)
  3. MCL-1 Inhibition by Selective BH3 Mimetics Disrupts Mitochondrial Dynamics Causing Loss of Viability and Functionality of Human Cardiomyocytes. Rasmussen ML, Taneja N, Neininger AC, Wang L, Robertson GL, Riffle SN, Shi L, Knollmann BC, Burnette DT, Gama V (2020) iScience 23(4): 101015
    › Primary publication · 32283523 (PubMed) · PMC7155208 (PubMed Central)
  4. Precise Tuning of Cortical Contractility Regulates Cell Shape during Cytokinesis. Taneja N, Bersi MR, Baillargeon SM, Fenix AM, Cooper JA, Ohi R, Gama V, Merryman WD, Burnette DT (2020) Cell Rep 31(1): 107477
    › Primary publication · 32268086 (PubMed) · PMC8223100 (PubMed Central)
  5. Uncovering cell biology in the third dimension. Robertson GL, Romero-Morales AI, Lippmann ES, Gama V (2020) Mol Biol Cell 31(5): 319-323
    › Primary publication · 32105584 (PubMed) · PMC7183789 (PubMed Central)
  6. Sox6 as a new modulator of renin expression in the kidney. Saleem M, Hodgkinson CP, Xiao L, Gimenez-Bastida JA, Rasmussen ML, Foss J, Payne AJ, Mirotsou M, Gama V, Dzau VJ, Gomez JA (2020) Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 318(2): F285-F297
    › Primary publication · 31760770 (PubMed) · PMC7052657 (PubMed Central)
  7. Remodeling of mitochondrial morphology and function: an emerging hallmark of cellular reprogramming. Rastogi A, Joshi P, Contreras E, Gama V (2019) Cell Stress 3(6): 181-194
    › Primary publication · 31225513 (PubMed) · PMC6558935 (PubMed Central)
  8. Computational Immune Monitoring Reveals Abnormal Double-Negative T Cells Present across Human Tumor Types. Greenplate AR, McClanahan DD, Oberholtzer BK, Doxie DB, Roe CE, Diggins KE, Leelatian N, Rasmussen ML, Kelley MC, Gama V, Siska PJ, Rathmell JC, Ferrell PB, Johnson DB, Irish JM (2019) Cancer Immunol Res 7(1): 86-99
    › Primary publication · 30413431 (PubMed) · PMC6318034 (PubMed Central)
  9. Wnt Signaling and Its Impact on Mitochondrial and Cell Cycle Dynamics in Pluripotent Stem Cells. Rasmussen ML, Ortolano NA, Romero-Morales AI, Gama V (2018) Genes (Basel) 9(2)
    › Primary publication · 29463061 (PubMed) · PMC5852605 (PubMed Central)
  10. A Non-apoptotic Function of MCL-1 in Promoting Pluripotency and Modulating Mitochondrial Dynamics in Stem Cells. Rasmussen ML, Kline LA, Park KP, Ortolano NA, Romero-Morales AI, Anthony CC, Beckermann KE, Gama V (2018) Stem Cell Reports 10(3): 684-692
    › Primary publication · 29429957 (PubMed) · PMC5918190 (PubMed Central)
  11. Apical polarization and lumenogenesis: The apicosome sheds new light. Romero-Morales AI, Ortolano NA, Gama V (2017) J Cell Biol 216(12): 3891-3893
    › Primary publication · 29138252 (PubMed) · PMC5716292 (PubMed Central)
  12. Chronicle of a Neuronal Death Foretold: Preventing Aging by Keeping MGRN1 at the Nucleus. Ortolano NA, Gama V (2017) Mol Cell 66(3): 301-303
    › Primary publication · 28475865 (PubMed)
  13. The Molecular Basis for the Lack of Inflammatory Responses in Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells and Their Differentiated Cells. D'Angelo W, Gurung C, Acharya D, Chen B, Ortolano N, Gama V, Bai F, Guo YL (2017) J Immunol 198(5): 2147-2155
    › Primary publication · 28130495 (PubMed) · PMC5321812 (PubMed Central)
  14. Bax deficiency prolongs cerebellar neurogenesis, accelerates medulloblastoma formation and paradoxically increases both malignancy and differentiation. Garcia I, Crowther AJ, Gama V, Miller CR, Deshmukh M, Gershon TR (2015) Oncogene 34(29): 3881
    › Primary publication · 26179456 (PubMed)
  15. Life after MOMP. Gama V, Deshmukh M (2015) Mol Cell 58(2): 199-201
    › Primary publication · 25884366 (PubMed) · PMC4879686 (PubMed Central)
  16. The E3 ligase PARC mediates the degradation of cytosolic cytochrome c to promote survival in neurons and cancer cells. Gama V, Swahari V, Schafer J, Kole AJ, Evans A, Huang Y, Cliffe A, Golitz B, Sciaky N, Pei XH, Xiong Y, Deshmukh M (2014) Sci Signal 7(334): ra67
    › Primary publication · 25028717 (PubMed) · PMC4182917 (PubMed Central)
  17. Tonic activation of Bax primes neural progenitors for rapid apoptosis through a mechanism preserved in medulloblastoma. Crowther AJ, Gama V, Bevilacqua A, Chang SX, Yuan H, Deshmukh M, Gershon TR (2013) J Neurosci 33(46): 18098-108
    › Primary publication · 24227720 (PubMed) · PMC3828463 (PubMed Central)
  18. Adenosine: essential for life but licensed to kill. Gama V, Deshmukh M (2013) Mol Cell 50(3): 307-8
    › Primary publication · 23664374 (PubMed) · PMC3682465 (PubMed Central)
  19. Human embryonic stem cells: living on the edge. Gama V, Deshmukh M (2012) Cell Cycle 11(21): 3905-6
    › Primary publication · 23032268 (PubMed) · PMC3507477 (PubMed Central)
  20. Bax deficiency prolongs cerebellar neurogenesis, accelerates medulloblastoma formation and paradoxically increases both malignancy and differentiation. Garcia I, Crowther AJ, Gama V, Miller CR, Miller CR, Deshmukh M, Gershon TR (2013) Oncogene 32(18): 2304-14
    › Primary publication · 22710714 (PubMed) · PMC3449008 (PubMed Central)
  21. Human embryonic stem cells have constitutively active Bax at the Golgi and are primed to undergo rapid apoptosis. Dumitru R, Gama V, Fagan BM, Bower JJ, Swahari V, Pevny LH, Deshmukh M (2012) Mol Cell 46(5): 573-83
    › Primary publication · 22560721 (PubMed) · PMC3372694 (PubMed Central)
  22. CRM1 protein-mediated regulation of nuclear clusterin (nCLU), an ionizing radiation-stimulated, Bax-dependent pro-death factor. Leskov KS, Araki S, Lavik JP, Gomez JA, Gama V, Gonos ES, Trougakos IP, Matsuyama S, Boothman DA (2011) J Biol Chem 286(46): 40083-90
    › Primary publication · 21953454 (PubMed) · PMC3220538 (PubMed Central)
  23. Cell-Penetrating Penta-Peptides (CPP5s): Measurement of Cell Entry and Protein-Transduction Activity. Gomez JA, Chen J, Ngo J, Hajkova D, Yeh IJ, Gama V, Miyagi M, Matsuyama S (2010) Pharmaceuticals (Basel) 3(12): 3594-3613
    › Primary publication · 21359136 (PubMed) · PMC3045100 (PubMed Central)
  24. The C-terminus of interferon gamma receptor beta chain (IFNgammaR2) has antiapoptotic activity as a Bax inhibitor. Gomez JA, Sun W, Gama V, Hajkova D, Yoshida T, Wu Z, Miyagi M, Pink JJ, Jackson MW, Danielpour D, Matsuyama S (2009) Cancer Biol Ther 8(18): 1771-86
    › Primary publication · 19657228 (PubMed) · PMC2927208 (PubMed Central)
  25. Hdm2 is a ubiquitin ligase of Ku70-Akt promotes cell survival by inhibiting Hdm2-dependent Ku70 destabilization. Gama V, Gomez JA, Mayo LD, Jackson MW, Danielpour D, Song K, Haas AL, Laughlin MJ, Matsuyama S (2009) Cell Death Differ 16(5): 758-69
    › Primary publication · 19247369 (PubMed) · PMC2669846 (PubMed Central)
  26. A C-terminal fragment of Cyclin E, generated by caspase-mediated cleavage, is degraded in the absence of a recognizable phosphodegron. Plesca D, Mazumder S, Gama V, Matsuyama S, Almasan A (2008) J Biol Chem 283(45): 30796-803
    › Primary publication · 18784078 (PubMed) · PMC2576529 (PubMed Central)
  27. Ku70 is stabilized by increased cellular SUMO. Yurchenko V, Xue Z, Gama V, Matsuyama S, Sadofsky MJ (2008) Biochem Biophys Res Commun 366(1): 263-8
    › Primary publication · 18062920 (PubMed) · PMC2212819 (PubMed Central)
  28. Bax-inhibiting peptide protects cells from polyglutamine toxicity caused by Ku70 acetylation. Li Y, Yokota T, Gama V, Yoshida T, Gomez JA, Ishikawa K, Sasaguri H, Cohen HY, Sinclair DA, Mizusawa H, Matsuyama S (2007) Cell Death Differ 14(12): 2058-67
    › Primary publication · 17885668 (PubMed)
  29. Bax-inhibiting peptides derived from Ku70 and cell-penetrating pentapeptides. Gomez JA, Gama V, Yoshida T, Sun W, Hayes P, Leskov K, Boothman D, Matsuyama S (2007) Biochem Soc Trans 35(Pt 4): 797-801
    › Primary publication · 17635151 (PubMed)
  30. Involvement of the ubiquitin pathway in decreasing Ku70 levels in response to drug-induced apoptosis. Gama V, Yoshida T, Gomez JA, Basile DP, Mayo LD, Haas AL, Matsuyama S (2006) Exp Cell Res 312(4): 488-99
    › Primary publication · 16368436 (PubMed)
  31. Bax-inhibiting peptide derived from mouse and rat Ku70. Yoshida T, Tomioka I, Nagahara T, Holyst T, Sawada M, Hayes P, Gama V, Okuno M, Chen Y, Abe Y, Kanouchi T, Sasada H, Wang D, Yokota T, Sato E, Matsuyama S (2004) Biochem Biophys Res Commun 321(4): 961-6
    › Primary publication · 15358121 (PubMed)
  32. Clonal diversity in the expression and stability of the metastatic capability of Leishmania guyanensis in the golden hamster. Martínez JE, Valderrama L, Gama V, Leiby DA, Saravia NG (2000) J Parasitol 86(4): 792-9
    › Primary publication · 10958458 (PubMed)
  33. Reinfection in American cutaneous leishmaniasis: evaluation of clinical outcomes in the hamster model. Osorio Y, Gonzalez SJ, Gama VL, Travi BL (1998) Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 93(3): 353-6
    › Primary publication · 9698870 (PubMed)
  34. Sensitivity of Leishmania viannia panamensis to pentavalent antimony is correlated with the formation of cleavable DNA-protein complexes. Lucumi A, Robledo S, Gama V, Saravia NG (1998) Antimicrob Agents Chemother 42(8): 1990-5
    › Primary publication · 9687395 (PubMed) · PMC105721 (PubMed Central)