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Lauren Aleksunes Pharm.D., Ph.D., D.A.B.T.

Professor Rutgers University – Ernest Mario School of PharmacyEOHSI – Toxicology
Work EOHSI Room 426 (Labs: Rooms 439, 434, 430, and 429) 170 Frelinghuysen Rd Piscataway New Jersey 08854 Work Phone: 848-445-5518 (office) Work Phone: 848-445-0187 (lab) Website: LinkedIn
Photo of Lauren Aleksunes Pharm.D., Ph.D., D.A.B.T.

Biographical Info

Dr. Aleksunes is Professor in the Rutgers University, Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Project Lead of the NJ Alliance for Clinical and Translational Science CTSA Workforce Development Core, and Director of the Joint Graduate Program in Toxicology and the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Dr. Aleksunes is also a member of the CounterAct Research Center of Excellence where she Co-Leads the Research Education Core and Pharmacology and Drug Development Core. Within the NIEHS P30 Center for Environmental Exposures and Disease, Dr. Aleksunes is Co-Director of the Environmental/Chemical Pathology Core and Co-Director of Career Development and Mentoring.

Research Areas

Drugs and chemicals are often too large to enter and exit cells unassisted. Transporter proteins can be used as gates that regulate which chemicals leave cells. In fact, the ATP-binding cassette transporters (ABC) are members of a superfamily of transporters found in the plasma membrane. ABC transporters function as efflux pumps that remove chemicals from the cell. Our laboratory studies members of three families of efflux transporters: ABCB1 (Multidrug resistance protein 1, MDR1, P-glycoprotein), ABCC1-6 (Multidrug resistance-associated proteins, MRP), and ABCG2 (Breast cancer resistance protein, BCRP). These transporters are important in removing chemicals from the liver and kidneys and can protect against target organ toxicity. Similarly, these efflux pumps are expressed in the placenta and participate in maternal-fetal xenobiotic disposition, thereby protecting the developing fetus from toxicant exposure.

TransporterBiology2

Dr. Aleksunes’ laboratory investigates how drug transporters in the liver, kidneys, brain, and placenta protect against the accumulation and toxicity of pharmaceuticals and environmental chemicals. Her studies aim to 1) characterize substrates and inhibitors for efflux transporters, 2) determine how genetic variants influence transporter function, and 3) understand the regulatory mechanisms that control expression of transporters. Dr. Aleksunes’ laboratory utilizes molecular biology, cell biology, in vivo transgenic animal, explant human tissue, biomarkers of toxicity, and pharmacokinetic approaches to study the interplay of drug transport and toxicology.

Dr. Aleksunes and her laboratory are funded by NIH R01ES021800, R01ES029275, R01GM123330, and F31ES029794  Dr. Aleksunes is Principal Investigator for T32ES007148 and R25ES020721 and Intern Programs from the Society of Toxicology and the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. She also participates in U54TR002258 and U54AR055073.

Lauren-web-images

Research Highlights

The Aleksunes laboratory includes research scientists (Xia Wen), graduate students (Ludwik Gorczyca, Danielle Kozlosky, and Maxine Abustan), postdoctoral fellows (Ranran Zhang and Lauren Walker), and undergraduate students (Fatimah Mosaad, Brian Rinelli, Chris Pella, Duaa Eisa, Hye Min Shin, Perihan Badawy, Rebecca Sun, and Victoria Woo). Students from China Pharmaceutical University and Sun Yat-Sen University spend rotations in the Aleksunes laboratory as well.

Highlights from the research team include:

  • Identification of pharmacogenetic risk factors, drug interactions, and biomarkers for cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity in humans.
  • Investigation of enterohepatic bile acid signaling and homeostasis during pregnancy.
  • Characterization of environmental chemicals as substrates and inhibitors of human placental efflux transporters.
  • Elucidation of regulatory mechanisms controlling transporter expression in the placenta.
  • Characterization of cell-cell communication between microglia and brain endothelial cells.
  • Identification of transporters in the blood-brain barrier that regulate exposure to pesticides.
  • Screening of diverse chemical sets to inform the development and refinement of virtual Adverse Outcome Pathways (vAOPs).

Scholarly Activities

In the News

Recent Publications

  1. You, D, Wen, X, Gorczyca, L, Morris, A, Richardson, JR, Aleksunes, LM. Increased MDR1 Transporter Expression in Human Brain Endothelial Cells Through Enhanced Histone Acetylation and Activation of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Signaling. Mol. Neurobiol. 2019;56 (10):6986-7002. doi: 10.1007/s12035-019-1565-7. PubMed PMID:30963442 PubMed Central PMC6728213
  2. Russo, DP, Strickland, J, Karmaus, AL, Wang, W, Shende, S, Hartung, T, Aleksunes, LM, Zhu, H. Nonanimal Models for Acute Toxicity Evaluations: Applying Data-Driven Profiling and Read-Across. Environ. Health Perspect. 2019;127 (4):47001. doi: 10.1289/EHP3614. PubMed PMID:30933541 PubMed Central PMC6785238
  3. You, D, Shin, HM, Mosaad, F, Richardson, JR, Aleksunes, LM. Brain region-specific regulation of histone acetylation and efflux transporters in mice. J. Biochem. Mol. Toxicol. 2019; :e22318. doi: 10.1002/jbt.22318. PubMed PMID:30897286 PubMed Central PMC6754812
  4. Wen, X, Baker, AA, Klaassen, CD, Corton, JC, Richardson, JR, Aleksunes, LM. Hepatic carboxylesterases are differentially regulated in PPARα-null mice treated with perfluorooctanoic acid. Toxicology. 2019;416 :15-22. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2019.01.014. PubMed PMID:30685356 PubMed Central PMC6397673
  5. Szilagyi, JT, Composto-Wahler, GM, Joseph, LB, Wang, B, Rosen, T, Laskin, JD, Aleksunes, LM. Anandamide down-regulates placental transporter expression through CB2 receptor-mediated inhibition of cAMP synthesis. Pharmacol. Res. 2019;141 :331-342. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2019.01.002. PubMed PMID:30610963 PubMed Central PMC6391190
  6. Szilagyi, JT, Gorczyca, L, Brinker, A, Buckley, B, Laskin, JD, Aleksunes, LM. Placental BCRP/ABCG2 Transporter Prevents Fetal Exposure to the Estrogenic Mycotoxin Zearalenone. Toxicol. Sci. 2019;168 (2):394-404. doi: 10.1093/toxsci/kfy303. PubMed PMID:30576553 PubMed Central PMC6432861
  7. Szilagyi, JT, Fussell, KC, Wang, Y, Jan, YH, Mishin, V, Richardson, JR, Heck, DE, Yang, S, Aleksunes, LM, Laskin, DL et al.. Quinone and nitrofurantoin redox cycling by recombinant cytochrome b5 reductase. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 2018;359 :102-107. doi: 10.1016/j.taap.2018.09.011. PubMed PMID:30222979 PubMed Central PMC6528659
  8. Ibrahim, ME, Chang, C, Hu, Y, Hogan, SL, Mercke, N, Gomez, M, O'Bryant, CL, Bowles, DW, George, B, Wen, X et al.. Pharmacokinetic determinants of cisplatin-induced subclinical kidney injury in oncology patients. Eur. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 2019;75 (1):51-57. doi: 10.1007/s00228-018-2552-z. PubMed PMID:30220072 PubMed Central PMC6656531
  9. Memon, N, Griffin, IJ, Lee, CW, Herdt, A, Weinberger, BI, Hegyi, T, Carayannopoulos, MO, Aleksunes, LM, Guo, GL. Developmental regulation of the gut-liver (FGF19-CYP7A1) axis in neonates. J. Matern. Fetal. Neonatal. Med. 2018; :1-6. doi: 10.1080/14767058.2018.1513483. PubMed PMID:30122083 PubMed Central PMC6488437
  10. Rooney, J, Oshida, K, Vasani, N, Vallanat, B, Ryan, N, Chorley, BN, Wang, X, Bell, DA, Wu, KC, Aleksunes, LM et al.. Activation of Nrf2 in the liver is associated with stress resistance mediated by suppression of the growth hormone-regulated STAT5b transcription factor. PLoS ONE. 2018;13 (8):e0200004. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0200004. PubMed PMID:30114225 PubMed Central PMC6095522
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