Image of faculty member, Shelley Phelan

Dr. Shelley A. Phelan

Professor of Biology
o: Bannow Science Center Rm 216
p: x3120


B.A., Wellesley College
Ph.D., Harvard University

Current Research Interests

For the past 10 years, my research has focused on a family of antioxidant genes called Peroxiredoxins.  The peroxiredoxin genes encode thiol-specific antioxidant proteins that protect cells from oxidative stress-induced damage. They have been implicated in numerous cellular processes that are regulated by reactive oxygen species, including cell signaling, proliferation, and apoptosis, as well as diseases related to oxidative stress such as atherosclerosis, aging, and neurodegenerative disease. With the help of my undergraduate students, we have discovered key regulators and DNA elements involved in the transcriptional control or Prdx6. My lab currently is studying the regulation and function of peroxiredoxins in cancer.  We and others have found that peroxiredoxins can possess poth tumor-preventive and tumor supportive functions, suggesting a novel and complex mechanism for the regulation of cancer.  We have demonstrated that liver cancer cells exhibit increased expression of Prdx6 and decreased susceptibility to oxidative stress-induced cell death as compared to non-cancerous liver cells. In addition, we have shown that suppression of this gene in cancer cells increases oxidative stress-induced cell death, demonstrating an important protective role in cancer cell viability. My current research is funded by a $214K grant from the National Cancer Institute of the NIH to investigate the role of Prdx1 and Prdx6 in the prevention and maintenance of human breast cancer, and a $75K grant from Research Corp to work with Dr. Min Xu on the development of a new multimodal microscopy method to characterize cancer cells. Several undergraduates have been engaged in this research, and we hope this work will provide insight into the function of peroxiredoxins in cancer cell biology.

Courses Taught

  1. BI 170: General Biology I (Majors)
  2. BI 296: Special Topics in Biology
  3. BI 327: Cell Biology Lab
  4. BI 327L: Cell Biology Lab
  5. BI 381: Sem: Molec Mechanisms /Disease

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