Brian Seed

Massachusetts General Hospital
Simches Research Ctr CPZN# 7228
185 Cambridge St
Boston, MA 02114
Tel: 617-726-5975
Fax: 617-643-3328
Visit my lab page here.

A major emphasis for our lab continues to be the genetic analysis of signal transduction, and the development of tools to accelerate our rate of understanding of the intracellular paths that underly cellular communication and pathogen responses in the immune system. As part of that program we have been working to develop rapid systems for creating mutant cell lines that have lesions in signal transduction pathways, and appropriate ways to uncover the genetic basis of those lesions. The specific pathways on which we have focused most heavily are those arising from the T cell antigen receptor and other activating receptors, such as those for tumor necrosis factor alpha and lipopolysaccharide. We are also developing systems for rapid generation of mice bearing targeted disruptions of specific candidate genes.

Recently we have shown that the nuclear receptor PPAR-gamma, known to play a key role in the development of adipocytes, acts on human macrophages to inhibit inflammatory cytokine production. A number of human nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have PPAR-gamma activity at high doses, comparable to the serum concentration attained during treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Hence an unrecognized component of the action of these drugs may be to inhibit inflammatory cytokine production.

We have also begun to explore the use of engineered forms of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) to reveal gene activation in vivo. One subject we have begun to study is stromal-tumor interaction in solid neoplasms. Tumor angiogenesis is known to be a critical element of the growth and metastasis of solid tumors. The angiogenic process requires normal tissue (blood vessels and stromal cells) to infiltrate neoplastic tissue. To help identify whic normal cells are involved in angiogenesis, we created transgenic mice in which the promoter for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) was placed upstream of GFP. The transgenic mice show green fluorescence about the margins and in the granulation tissue of healing wounds. In collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. Rakesh Jain at this institution, we implanted tumors in dorsal skin chambers which allow intravital microscopy of the tumors as they develop. These studies showed that the neoplastic cells strongly activate the VEGF promoter activity of surrounding tissue and induce the migration of bright green cells into the tumor itself. The fluorescent cells in both wound and tumor models are fibroblasts. By crossing the VEGF-GFP transgene into mice which are genetically susceptible to mammary tumors, we were also able to examine the promoter activation of endogenous tumors. These studies showed that the stromal cells surrounding the tumor nodules are highly induced for the GFP transgene, whereas the tumor itself shows no reactivity. Hence stromal fibroblasts show potent activation of the VEGF promoter. Although it has widely been supposed that the tumor itself is responsible for angiogenesis, the results of this work suggest that tumor-stromal collaboration is complex and further study is needed to identify which aspects of angiogenesis are regulated by tumor and which are regulated by the untransformed tissues of the tumor bed.

A second broad area of study relates to gene therapy and its potential utility both for the treatment of human diseases and for the generation of tools to facilitate the study of genes in an organismic context. This work is directed at creating better vectors for gene therapy, better tools for turning genes on and off, and better ways to regulate tissue specific expression. Specific objectives include treatments for HIV infection and inborn errors of metabolism.


Jiang, C. Ting, A.T. and Seed, B. PPAR-g agonists inhibit production of monocyte inflammatory cytokines. Nature 391, 82-86 (1998).

Xavier, R., Brennan, T., Li, Q., McCormack, C., and Seed, B. Membrane compartmentation is required for efficient T cell activation. Immunity 8, 723-732 (1998).

Fukumura, D., Xavier, R., Sugiura, T., Chen, Y., Park, E.C., Lu, N., Selig, M., Nielsen, G., Taksir, T., Jain, R.K., and Seed, B. Tumor Induction of VEGF Promoter activity in stromal cells. Cell 94, 715-725 (1998).

Last Update: 1/6/2014