CB 399: Interorgan Communication Pathways in Physiology and Disease Spring 2016

Interorgan Communication Pathways in Physiology and Disease

Course Director: Dr. Norbert Perrimon
Curriculum Fellow:   Emily Gleason, emily_gleason@hms.harvard.edu

Local tissue homeostasis is relatively well understood, while long-distance communication between organs is not. Studies from invertebrates (e.g., Drosophila) and mammals have documented the existence and importance of a number of factors that mediate the communication between organs – including leptin, irisin, and GDF-11. These factors act to coordinate the function of distal organs in physiological (e.g., starvation, high-fat diet) and disease states. The relevance of interorgan communication factors to diseases is illustrated by systemic conditions including cancer cachexia. The aim of this nanocourse is to provide a broad entry point into the expanding field of interorgan communication. We will identify the known secreted factors for which there is strong evidence of their direct roles in interorgan communication pathways. Further, we will examine the physiological stimuli and mechanisms that induce the secretion of these factors in the organs-of-origin. In addition, we will determine the cellular and tissue processes are induced in the destination organs of the systemic factors. Moreover, we will evaluate the effect of dysregulation of the interorgan communication factor pathways on the overall organism physiology, such that occurring in disease. Finally, we will discuss and propose clinical approaches that could be used to target and treat dysregulated interorgan communication pathways. Throughout the course, we will illustrate how studies in model organisms ranging from Drosophila to mammals can be used in high-throughput discovery of interorgan communication secreted factors. With this course, we hope to spark excitement and interest into the novel field of interorgan communication.


  • Ilia Droujinine, Graduate Student, Perrimon Lab.
  • Norbert Perrimon, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School.
  • Bruce Spiegelman, Professor of Cell Biology and Medicine, Harvard Medical School.
  • Amy Wagers, Professor, Harvard Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.

First Session (open to the Harvard community): Friday, February 26, 2016 12:45 – 4:15 PM
Location: TMEC 250

Second Session (limited to registered students): Wednesday, March 2, 2016 12:30- 3 PM
Location: TMEC L-007

 Learning Objectives:
1. Identify the secreted factors for which there is strong evidence of their direct roles in interorgan communication pathways (Day 1).
2. Evaluate the effects of dysregulation of interorgan communication factor pathways in disease and discuss treatments targeted at normalizing the systemic signaling (Day 1).
3. Propose experiments to test the involvement of molecules or factors in interorgan communication pathways (Day 2).

First, please read the following papers (they are attached to the bottom of the page, you must be logged in to see them):
1. Yi P, Park J-S, Melton DA. 2013. Betatrophin: a hormone that controls pancreatic β cell proliferation. Cell 153: 747-58
2. Vallejo DM, Juarez-Carreño S, Bolivar J, Morante J, Dominguez M. 2015. A brain circuit that synchronizes growth and maturation revealed through Dilp8 binding to Lgr3. Science 350: aac6767

Second, please select one of the papers and write 2 aims, 1-2 sentances each, that are logical future directions for this work.  Please email your 2 aims to Emily (emily_gleason@hms.harvard.edu) no later than 12pm on Tuesday March 1st. 

Finally, please come to the second session prepared to discuss the papers and your proposed aims. 

DROP DEADLINE: Friday, February 19, 2016