Daniel Carson, Ph.D.

Research Interests

Dr. Carson's laboratory is examining the expression and function of cell surface components that participate in and regulate cellular interactions in developing embryos and various tumor cell models. Following fertilization, embryos develop to a stage at which they acquire the ability to bind to and invade uterine tissue. This development reflects an increase in the expression of embryonic adhesion-promoting molecules. One class of embryonic adhesion-promoting molecules is heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs). Studies in both mouse and human model systems indicate that HSPGs and novel cell surface proteoglycan-binding proteins support embryo-uterine interactions at early stages of embryo attachment. Expression of both the HSPGs and their binding proteins persists through placental development and plays an important role in cartilage development. Studies of the patterns of expression of both HSPG core proteins, HS polysaccharides and various mouse lines in which genes encoding HS biosynthetic enzymes or protein cores demonstrate a critical role for HSPGs in cartilage and bone development and function. Similar HSPG-dependent interactions occur in a variety of tumor cell lines, including those of breast, melanoma and prostate. Various cell culture and animal models are used to determine the precise roles HSPGs play in normal development and tumor models.

A novel HSPG-binding protein (HIP) is expressed in a number of normal and malignant adult epithelia where it is proposed to play a similar proteoglycan-binding role. Structure-function and genetic approaches are used to understand the exact function of HIP and proteoglycans in implantation as well as in the physiology of adult tissues.

Another class of cell surface molecules, high molecular weight mucin glycoproteins, is expressed by many normal epithelial cells and at particularly high levels in various tumors. One mucin in particular, MUC1 is proposed to play an antiadhesive role and protect tumor cells from host immune surveillance. MUC1 is abundantly distributed at the apical aspect of the uterine epithelium under most conditions in a number of species, including mice and humans. In mice, MUC1 is markedly down-regulated at both the protein and mRNA level prior to the time of embryo attachment. This response appears to be critical to permit embryo attachment and is mediated by the action of ovarian steroid hormones, certain cytokines, and their receptors. Again, Molecular biological and molecular genetic approaches are used to understand the MUC1 expression in the context of embryo attachment and in breast and prostate cancer models.

Current Projects

  • Molecular aspects of implantation - Expression and function of cell surface components at points of interaction between embryos and uterine cells in mice and human model systems
  • Regulation of mucin glycoprotein expression and function - Molecular biological and genetic approaches are used to study expression of the key barrier molecules, mucins, in response to models, cytokines and microbial challenges. Animal models as well as human breast and prostate cancer are being studied.
  • Heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) expression and function in cartilage development - The role that the HSPG, perlecan, plays in development and maintenance of cartilage is being studied using cell biological and molecular genetic techniques.
  • Heparin/heparan sulfate interacting protein (HIP/L29) expression and function - The roles that HIP plays in cell adhesion, control of blood coagulation and in reproduction are being studied by various approaches.

Research Group

  • Catherine Kirn-Safran, Ph.D. - Research Assistant Professor (Ph.D., University Louis Pasteur, France). HIP/L29 expression and function in mice; development of transgenic mouse models.
  • Sonia D'Souza, M.S. - Graduate Student (M.S., University of Mumbai, India). Role of heparin interacting protein (HIP) in biochemical aspects of growth factor delivery and activity.
  • Neeraja Dharmaraj, M.S. - Graduate Student (M.S., Osmania University, India). MUC1 expression by inhibitors of metalloproteinases.
  • John O'Connor, M.S. - Graduate Student (M.S., West Chester University). Regulation of MUC1 gene expression in prostate cancer cells.
  • Peng (Paul) Wang, M.S. - Graduate Student (M.S., East China Normal University, China). Gene activation by MUC1 signaling.
  • JoAnne Julian, B.S. - Scientist (B.S., Trinity University). Embryo implantation in mouse and human models.
  • Rob Long, B.S. - Research Associate III (B.S., University of Delaware). In vitro studies of cell growth and differentiation, protein profiling using mass spectroscopy and HPLC techniques.
  • Dan Oristian, B.A. - Graduate Student (B.A., University of Delaware). Use of ribozymes and siRNA in gene knockdown applications in ES cells and preimplantation embryos.

Selected Publications

Adjunct Professor
Dean, Schlumberger Chair of Advanced Studies and Research, and Professor of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rice University

Phone: (713) 348-3350

Fax: (713) 348-6149

Email: dcarson@rice.edu

Office: Rice University

Rice University Wiess School of Natural Sciences - MS 102
203 Keck Hall
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, TX 77251-1892


  • B.S. - University of Pennsylvania
  • Ph.D. - Temple University
  • Postdoctoral - Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine