PHA/AHA Post Doctoral Fellowship Award Winner 2006

Brian Hawkins, PhD Brian Hawkins, PhD

Sponsor: University of Pennsylvania, PA
"Role of Thrombin in Pulmonary Endothelial Mitochondrial Function"
Term: July 1, 2006 – June 30, 2008

Summary of Research Project:

Role of Thrombin in Pulmonary Endothelial Mitochondrial Function

Thrombin is a reactive protein that mediates various processes in the pulmonary vessels and may contribute to pulmonary vascular disease and hypertension. Thrombin triggers signaling in cells lining the vessels, termed the endothelium, by reacting with protease-activated receptors (PARs) and leading to calcium mobilization from the intracellular stores. However, the cellular consequences of high intracellular calcium in the pulmonary endothelium in response to pathologic thrombin levels are unclear. It is increasingly recognized that elevated calcium is transmitted to the mitochondria, leading to calcium overload and mitochondrial dysfunction. A potential consequence of mitochondrial calcium overload is the aberrant production of reactive oxygen species that can alter cellular function and participate in mitochondrial dysfunction. Unfortunately, how thrombin influences mitochondrial function in endothelial cells remains unknown. We hypothesize that thrombin triggers a PAR-dependent increase in intracellular calcium, which leads to mitochondrial functional alterations in pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells.


Dr. Brian J. Hawkins grew up in Oley, PA about one hour northeast of Philadelphia. He went to Penn State University and received his B.S. in exercise science and business followed by attending Bloomsburg University for his M.S. in exercise science. He started out his career in exercise physiology and through it was able to work with cardiac patients and learn more about pulmonary hypertension. In pursuit of his Ph.D., Dr. Hawkins attended Virginia Tech with a degree in Molecular Cell Biology and Biotechnology. His current research at the University of Pennsylvania focuses on the “Role of Thrombin in Pulmonary Endothelial Mitochondrial Function”. Dr. Hawkins hopes to use his education and training to delineate the pathology of various forms of cardiovascular disease. “My work is an attempt to determine how thrombin signaling leads to increased production of reactive oxygen species and influences mitochondrial function and ultimately, endothelial function”. Dr. Hawkins also hopes to find new therapeutics and treatments for pulmonary hypertension patients.

Though Dr. Hawkins has a full a schedule with his research and publications that are currently in review, he still finds time to enjoy exercising and the outdoors. His hobbies include canoeing and biking. Dr. Hawkin’s future career goals are to stay in the field of education. “I would like to apply for more funding so that I am able to set up a good lab at a school and teach undergrads and graduate students when I leave the University of Pennsylvania to further education in this field”.

Other Published Articles

Madesh, M., B.J. Hawkins, T. Milovanova, C.D. Bhanumathy, S.K. Joseph, S.P. RamachandraRao, K. Sharma, T. Kurosaki, and A.B. Fisher. 2005. Selective role for superoxide in InsP(3) receptor-mediated mitochondrial dysfunction and endothelial apoptosis. Journal of Cell Biology. 170:1079-1090.

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