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Martha C. Soto, Ph.D.

Present Title:
Associate Professor
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

Office Address:
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
675 Hoes Lane, R231
Piscataway, New Jersey 08854

Lab Website:



Dr. Soto has used model organisms to investigate developmental genetics problems since here undergraduate days at MIT.  After Ph.D. studies at Harvard Medical School on the Polycomb Group in Drosophila, she conducted postdoctoral studies at U. Massachusetts Medical Center with soon-to-be Nobel Laureate Craig Mello, using C. elegans. In her lab at RWJMS she has focused on how the actin cytoskeleton is established and maintained to promote the exquisitely polarized movements of cells during development.  The WAVE/SCAR genes she studies are mutated in many human cancers and in diseases of neuronal development. Dr. Soto’s passion to educate the next generation of scientists to excel in research and teaching led her to create the INSPIRE Postdoctoral Training Program, where she serves as PI and Co-Director, and the K-12 Outreach Program, BIO Links.

Description of Research Expertise:
Cell Polarity, Embryonic Morphogenesis, Developmental Genetics
Proper control of cell polarity is essential for all cells. Healthy mammalian epithelial cells maintain apical basal polarity, while cancerous epithelial cells exhibit defects in the orientation of their division axis. Our studies using the nematode C. elegans combine genetic, molecular and biochemical approaches to investigate how specific proteins are used to regulate cell divisions and cell migrations at key points in development.
Current projects in the lab focus on the role of the GEX complex, a regulator of the actin cytoskeleton, in polarized events during development including epidermal cell migration, epithelial cell polarization and regulated nuclear movements.

Undergraduate Education:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, MA
B.S. Biology

Graduate Education:
Harvard Medical School
Boston, MA
Ph.D., in Genetics
Thesis: “Characterization of the Distal Bithorax Complex and Phenotypic Studies of Polycomb Group Genes.”

Postdoctoral Training:
University of Massachusetts Medical Center
Worcester, MA
Developmental Genetics, “Cell Polarity Regulation in the C. elegans Embryo.”

Selected Publications:

  • Chiara Giuliani, Flavia Troglio, Zhiyong Bai, Falshruti B. Patel , Adriana Zucconi, Maria Grazia Malabarba, A. Disanza, Theresia B. Stradal, Giuseppe Cassata, Stefano Confalonieri, J.D. Hardin, Martha C. Soto, Barth D. Grant, Giorgio Scita. The F-BAR-containing Toca family proteins coordinate N-WASP and WAVE-dependent actin dynamics with membrane trafficking in C. elegans and mammalian cells. PLOS Genetics (2009) Oct, 5(10):e1000675.
  • M. Afaq Shakir, Ke Jiang, Eric C. Struckhoff, Rafael S. Demarco, Falshruti Patel, Martha C. Soto, and Erik A. Lundquist 2008. The Arp2/3 activators WAVE and WASP have distinct genetic interactions with Rac GTPases in C. elegans axon guidance. Genetics 179: 1957-71.
  • Falshruti B. Patel, Yelena Y. Bernadskaya, Esteban Chen, Aesha Jobanputra, Zahra Pooladi, Kristy L. Freeman, Christellle Galli, William A. Mohler, and Martha C. Soto. The WAVE/SCAR complex promotes polarized cell movements and actin enrichment in epithelia during C. elegans embryogenesis. Developmental Biology, (2008) Dec 15;324(2):297-309.
  • Hayakawa A, Leonard D, Murphy S, Hayes S, Soto M, Fogarty K, Standley C, Bellve K, Lambright D, Mello C, Corvera S. 2006. The WD40 and FYVE domain containing protein 2 defines a class of early endosomes necessary for endocytosis. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 103 (32): 11928.
  • Quinn, C.C., Pfeil, DS. Chen, Esteban, Stovall, EL, Rivard, MV, Gavin, MK, Forrester, WC, Ryder, EF, Soto, MC, and Wadsworth, WG. 2006. UNC-6/netrin and SLT-1/slit guidance cues orient axon outgrowth mediated by MIG-10/RIAM/Lamellipodin. Current Biology 16, p. 845-853.
  • Shiriyama, M., Soto, M.C.*, Ishidate, T., Kim, S., Nakamura, K., Bei, Y., van den Heuvel, S. and Mello, C.C. 2006. The conserved protein kinases CDK-1, GSK-3, KIN-19 and MBK-2 promote OMA-1 destruction to regulate the oocyte-to-embryo transition in C. elegans. Current Biology 16, p. 47-55. (*Shared 1st author.)
  • Grigorenko AP, Moliaka YK, Soto MC, Mello CC, Rogaev EI. 2004. The Caenorhabditis elegans IMPAS gene, imp-2, is essential for development and is functionally distinct from related presenilins. Proc Natl Acad Sci; 101(41): p. 14955-60.
  • Bei, Y., Hogan, J., Berkowitz, L.A., Soto, M., Rocheleau, C.E., Pang, K.M., Collins, J. and C.C. Mello. 2002. SRC-1 and Wnt signaling act together to specify endoderm and to control cleavage orientation in early C. elegans embryos. Developmental Cell 3, p. 113-125.
  • Soto, M.C., Qadota H., Kasuya, K., Inoue, M., Tsuboi, D., Mello, C.C. and Kaibuchi, K.. 2002. The GEX-2 and GEX-3 proteins are required for tissue morphogenesis and cell migrations in C. elegans. Genes &Development 16, p. 620-632.
  • Shin, T.H., Yasuda, J., Rochelaeu, C. E., Lin, R, Soto, M., Bei, Y. Davis, R.J., and C.C. Mello. 1999. MOM-4, a MAP Kinase Kinase Kinase-Related Protein, Activates WRM-1/LIT-1 Kinase to Transduce Anterior/Posteior Polarity Signals in C. elegans. Molecular Cell 4, p. 275-280.
  • Soto, M.C., Chou, T-B., and Bender, W. 1995. “Comparison of Germline Mosaics of Genes in the Polycomb Group of Drosophila melanogaster,” Genetics 140, p. 231-243.