PiN Faculty Member - Michael Wolfe, PhD

Michael Wolfe, PhD

Professor of Neurology

Brigham & Women's Hospital
Center for Neurologic Diseases, HIM 754
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115
Tel: 617-525-5511
Fax: 617-525-5252
Visit my lab page here.

The Wolfe lab studies membrane-embedded proteases critical in normal biology and in human disease. The specific focus has been on the chemistry and biology of gamma-secretase, a protease critical to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and to cell differentiation during embryonic development. Small organic inhibitors have been developed and used as tools to characterize and identify gamma-secretase. Findings from the lab demonstrated that presenilin is the catalytic component of a larger gamma-secretase complex. Missense mutations in presenilin cause hereditary Alzheimer's disease, and these mutations specifically affect gamma-secretase activity. Purification of the complex has allowed biochemical characterization and a clearer understanding of how inhibitors and modulators interact with the enzyme. Ongoing projects also include structural studies on presenilin and presenilin-like proteases.

The lab has also begun studies on RNA splicing events critical to the pathogenesis of dementias. One focus is tau, a protein that forms filaments in a variety of neurodegenerative diseases. Mutations in tau that alter RNA splicing cause frontotemporal dementia. The lab validated the existence of a hypothetical stem loop where many of the dementia-associated mutations occur. These mutations destabilize the stem loop, allowing easier access to splicing factors. Small molecules that interact with and stabilize this structure have been identified, and efforts are ongoing to improve these agents to provide new tools for chemical biology as well as new prototype therapeutics. A related project is focused on RNA splicing of beta-secretase, which along with gamma-secretase produces the neurotoxic amyloid-beta peptide of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last Update: 5/12/2014


For a complete listing of publications click here.



© 2016 President and Fellows
of Harvard College