Sarah Hughes

Sarah Hughes

Associate Professor

Medical Genetics
Medical Sciences Building
(780) 492-8984
(780) 492-1998 (fax)


Academic Degrees and Training

  • B.Sc.: University of Lethbridge
  • M.Sc.: University of Calgary
  • PhD: University of Toronto
  • Post-doctoral training: Duke University

Current Research Interests

Research Areas

Neurofibromatosis Type II, developmental genetics, tumour suppressor proteins, cytoskeleton, cell adhesion, post-transcriptional regulation.

Current Research Interests

A genetic model for Neurofibromatosis Type II: Identification and characterization of protein partners of the Merlin tumour suppressor protein

I study the molecular mechanisms that link polarity and proliferation in epithelial cells. When cells lose this linkage they often become metastatic. Specifically, I use Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly) as a genetic model to study Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), an inherited cancer of the brain and spinal cord. Mutation or loss of the NF2 gene is also associated with metastasis of several non-neuronal tumours. Merlin, the protein product of the NF2 gene, is a tumour suppressor that interacts with the plasma membrane and the cytoskeleton. However, the molecular mechanism of how Merlin acts as a tumour suppressor is not known. To address this question, I am taking the approach of identifying and characterizing proteins that interact with Merlin. Drosophila provides a unique toolbox of powerful genetic techniques to determine the function of Merlin and its interacting proteins. I have already identified several new proteins that interact with Merlin and am currently studying how these control proliferation and adhesion within the cell. The approaches my laboratory will be using range from genetic analysis, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, and advanced microscopy.

Selected Publications

Abeysundara N, Leung AC, Primrose DA, Hughes SC. Regulation of cell proliferation and adhesion by means of a novel region of drosophila merlin interacting with Sip1.  Dev Dyn. 2014 Dec;243(12):1554-70. Epub 2014 Oct 1.

Li X, Zhuo R, Tiong S, Di Cara F, King-Jones K, Hughes SC, Campbell SD, Wevrick R. The Smc5/Smc6/MAGE complex confers resistance to caffeine and genotoxic stress in Drosophila melanogaster.  PLoS One. 2013;(8)3:e59866. Epub 2013 Mar 28.

Yang Yang, David A. Primrose, Albert C. Leung, Ross B. Fitzsimmons, Matt C. McDermand, Alison Missellbrook, Julie Haskins, AnneLiese S. Smylie and Sarah C. Hughes. 2012. The PP1 phosphatase Flapwing regulates the activity of Merlin and Moesin in Drosophila. Developmental Biology. V361 pgs.412-426.

Fred D. Mast*, Jing Li*, Maninder K. Virk, Sarah C. Hughes, Andrew J. Simmonds and Richard A. Rachubinski. 2011. Characterization of the functional requirement for Drosophila Pex1 during embryonic development. Disease Models and Mechanisms. V4 pgs. 659-672.

Hughes, S.C.*, Formstecher, E., and R.G. Fehon. Sip1, the Drosophila orthologue of EBP50/NHERF1, interacts with the Sterile 20 family kinase Slik to regulate Moesin activity. In press at Journal of Cell Science. * denotes corresponding author.

Edan Foley, Harriet Harris, Sarah C. Hughes, Kirst King-Jones, and Andrew J. Simmonds. 2009. I CanFly – Can you? - The 10th Canadian Drosophila Research Conference, Jasper/Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Fly 3:4, 1-2

Deng, H., Hughes S.C., Bell J.B. and Simmonds A.J. (2009). Vestigial, Scalloped and Dmef2 form alternative transcriptional complexes during muscle differentiation in Drosophila melanogaster. Molecular Biology of the Cell, V20:256-269.

Hughes, S.C. and R.G. Fehon. (2007). Understanding ERM Proteins – The awesome power of genetics finally brought to bear. Current Opinion in Cell Biology, 19:51-56.

Hughes, S.C. and R.G. Fehon. (2006). Phosphorylation and activity of the tumor-suppressor Merlin and ERM protein Moesin are coordinately regulated by the Slik kinase. Journal of Cell Biology, 175(2):305-313.

Speck, O., S.C. Hughes, N.K. Noren, R.M. Kulikauskas and R.G. Fehon (2003). Moesin functions antagonistically to the Rho pathway to maintain epithelial integrity. Nature 421:83-87.



David Primrose

Graduate Students
Namal Abeysundara
Kirsten Arnold