Dr. Debra Moriarity

moriarity d

Professor and Chair

Cell Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Growth Factor Signaling
Drug Discovery from Tropical Plants
Natural Products Research Group

Office: Shelby Center Room 369
Phone: 256.824.6045
Email: moriard@uah.edu 

Research Description

What makes cells grow and divide and what makes them stop? These questions have always intrigued me. My research interests have been directed, in one way or another, to answering these questions. I have worked for years in the area of growth factor signaling, specifically, epidermal growth factor. I have been especially interested in the interaction of this polypeptide growth factor with liver cells, both normal and hepatoma-derived. More recently, my participation in the UAH Natural Products Research Group has led me to investigations of how plant-derived chemicals may function as inhibitors of tumor cell growth. My laboratory is very active in the culture of various human tumor cells, and in testing the plant extracts we bring back from The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica,from North Queensland, Australia, from Abaco Island, The Bahamas and those we obtain from other tropical forests around the world. We assess the cytotoxic activity against various human tumor cell lines then use bioactivity-guided fractionation to isolate the active compounds from these plants. The structures of these active compounds are then determined by spectroscopic and/or crystallographic techniques such as NMR and X-ray crystallography. Studies of the mechanism of action of these potential new drugs are then done, including assaying for inhibition of topisomerases or ras –farnesylation, for interaction with growth factor signaling systems, for disruption of microtubule-related cell functions, and other cellular activities related to growth. Our goal is to discover potential new chemotherapeutic agents for the treatment of cancer.

Selected Publications

Setzer, M.C.; Setzer, W.N.; Jackes, B.R.; Gentry, G.A.; Moriarity, D.M. 2001."The Medicinal Value of Tropical Rainforest Plants from Paluma, North Queensland,Australia",Pharmaceutical Biology, 39, 67-78.

Moriarity, D.M., Huang, J., Yancey, C.A., Zhang, P., Setzer, W.N., Lawton, R.O., Bates, R.B. and Caldera, S. 1998. Lupeol is the cytotoxic principle in the leaf extract of Dendropanax c.f. querceti. Planta Medica 64: 370-372.

Setzer, W.N., Green, T.J., Whitaker, K.W., Moriarity, D.M., Yancey, C.A., Lawton, R.O. and Bates, R.B. 1995. A cytotoxic diacetylene from Dendropanax arboreus. Planta Medica, 61,11-12.

Setzer, W.N., M.N. Flair, K.G. Byler, J. Huang, M.A. Thompson, A.F. Setzer, D.M. Moriarity, R.O. Lawton and D.B.Windham-Carswell. 1992. Antimicrobial and cytotoxic activity of crude extracts of Araliaceae from Monteverde, Costa Rica. Bresnesia, 38, 123-130.

Moriarity, D.M., N. Fox, D.P. Aden, J.R. Hoyer and B.B. Knowles. 1983. Identification of human hepatoma-defined cell surface molecules. Hybridoma 2, 39-47.

Moriarity, D.M., D.M. DiSorbo, G. Litwack and C.R. Savage, Jr. 1981. Epidermal growth factor stimulation of ornithine decarboxylase activity in a human hepatoma cell line.Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 78, 2752-2756.

Moriarity, D.M. and C.R. Savage, Jr. 1980. Interaction of epidermal growth factor with adult rat liver parenchymal cells in primary culture. Arch. Biochem. Biophys. 203, 506-518.