Lucy Liaw


B.S. University of Arizona, Ph.D. University of Washington


Lucy Liaw has been a research scientist at Maine Medical Center since 1998. She attended University of Washington, receiving her Ph.D. in Biological Structure/Pathology in 1994 in the area of vascular biology. Her postdoctoral work was in the Dept. Cell Biology at Vanderbilt University, where she studied mouse genetics and cancer biology.  She spent one year in the Division of Cardiology at Vanderbilt following her postdoctoral fellowship before joining the faculty at Maine Medical Center. She has academic appointments at UMaine Orono, Tufts University Medical Center, Univ. Southern Maine, and the Univ. New England. Dr. Liaw is the Director of the Mouse Transgenic Facility, and oversees the development of targeted and transgenic mouse strains, and the mouse re-derivation and cryopreservation program. She also oversees the microcomputed tomography aspect of our In Vivo Imaging Core Facility. Dr. Liaw also serves as the Director of Research Training Programs at Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI), and represents MMCRI on the GSBS steering committee. Dr. Liaw serves on the Research Committee of the American Heart Association and the parent committee for Program Project Grants at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute at the NIH.

Seated from left: Christina Steltzer (summer 2012), Taylor Church (summer 2012), Berna Uygur, Sarah Peterson, Anne Harrington, Terry Henderson, Lucy Liaw, Christopher Kempe (summer 2012).
Standing from left: Albert Gordon, Beau Rostama, Joshua Boucher

Research Interests

Research Interests

My laboratory is interested in understanding how blood vessels develop during embryogenesis and repair themselves following vascular injury. We have recently focused on the family of Notch receptors, which have been shown to be highly expressed in large vessels during remodeling. Our goals are to understand the pathways by which Notch receptor signaling controls smooth muscle cell and endothelial cell behavior. These studies apply to human diseases including restenosis, atherosclerosis, and other vascular obstructive diseases. In addition, blood vessel recruitment and growth is a hallmark of successful tumors, and we are interested in signals that increase tumor cell growth and survival.

A second area of interest in the laboratory is defining potential cancer biomarkers. We are presently characterizing the utility of a secreted tumor antigen, osteopontin, as a biomarker for breast cancer progression. These studies are performed in collaboration with Dr. Susan Miesfeldt of the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine. Our goal is to develop a screening tool to assist clinical treatment of early stage cancer or to better define patients at high risk for developing cancer. Because osteopontin is expressed in most human cancers, our studies have applications beyond breast cancer.

I also direct the the Mouse Transgenic and In Vivo Imaging Core Facility at Maine Medical Center Research Institute, which is a resource for the generation of transgenic and gene-targeted models. This service allows investigators to submit transgenes of interest for pronuclear injection to obtain transgenic animals, or target specific genes in embryonic stem cells. Other resources available through this Core Facility are cryoprotection of mouse lines, re-derivation, embryo staging and collection, and maintenance of shared strains for investigator use. The Small Animal Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) component of the facility is run by my colleague Ilka Pinz, Ph.D. We also have capacity for dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), high resolution ultrasound, and microcomputed tomography (microCT) as part of our imaging services.

Education and Training Interests

My philosophy is that research training of undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral scientists is an integral component of a successful laboratory. I am an active member of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at UMaine Orono, and represent Maine Medical Center Research Institute (MMCRI) on the steering committee. I also serve as the Director of Research Training Programs at MMCRI, and hold responsibility for postdoctoral fellow and student advising. I serve as a faculty representative for MMCRI’s Research Fellow Association, which works to promote the research training and career advancement of our graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. I also participate in teaching graduate level courses and mentorship for fellowship applications.

Selected Publications

In Press

  • Urs S, Turner B, Tang Y, Rostama B, Small D, Liaw L. Effect of soluble Jagged-1- mediated inhibition of Notch signaling on proliferation and differentiation of an adipocyte progenitor cell model. Adipocyte 2012, in press.
  • Tang Y, Boucher JM, Liaw L. Histone deacetylase activity selectively regulates Notch-mediated smooth muscle differentiation in human vascular cells. J Amer Heart Assoc 2012, in press.
  • Tang Y, Bai H, Urs S, Wang Z, Liaw L. Notch1 activation in embryonic VE-cadherin populations selectively blocks hematopoietic stem cell generation and fetal liver hematopoiesis. Transgenic Res 2012, in press.

Additional Publications

  • Boucher J, Gridley T, Liaw L. Molecular pathways of Notch signaling in vascular smooth muscle cells. Frontiers in Physiology, 2012, 3:81. PMCID: PMC3151075
  • Venkatesh D, Fredette N, Rostama B, Tang Y, Vary CP, Liaw L, Urs S. RhoA-mediated signaling in Notch-induced senescence-like growth arrest and endothelial barrier dysfunction. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2011, 31:876-882
  • Tang Y, Yang X, Friesel RE, Vary CPH, Liaw L. Mechanisms of TGFbeta induced differentiation in human vascular smooth muscle cells. J Vasc Res 2011, 48:485-494.
  • Boucher JM, Peterson, SM, Urs S, Zhang C, Liaw L. The miR143/145 cluster is a novel transcriptional target of Jagged-1/Notch signaling in vascular smooth muscle cells. J Biol Chem 2011, 286:28312-28321.
  • Urs S, Henderson T, Le P, Rosen CJ, Liaw L. Tissue specific expression of Sprouty1 in mice protects against high fat diet induced fat accumulation, bone loss, and metabolic dysfunction. Br J Nutrition 2011, 6:1-9.
  • Tang Y, Urs S, Boucher J, Bernaiche T, Venkatesh D, Spicer DB, Vary CP, Liaw L. Notch and transforming growth factor-beta signaling pathways cooperatively regulate vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation. J Biol Chem. 2010 285:17556-17563.
  • Urs S, Venkatesh D, Tang Y, Henderson T, Yang X, Friesel RE, Rosen CJ, Liaw L. Sprouty1 is a critical regulatory switch of mesenchymal stem cell lineage allocation. FASEB J. 2010 29:3264-3273.
  • Tang Y, Harrington A, Yang X, Friesel RE, Liaw L. The contribution of the Tie2+ lineage to primitive and definitive hematopoietic cells. Genesis 2010 48:563-567.
  • Peterson SM, Iskenderian A, Cook L, Romashko A, Tobin K, Jones M, Norton A, Gomez-Yafal A, Heartlein MW, Concino MF, Liaw L, Martini PG. BMC Cancer 2010 10L427.
  • Plumer A, Duan H, Subramaniam S, Lucas FL, Miesfeldt S, Ng AK, Liaw L. Development of fragment-specific osteopontin antibodies and ELISA for quantification in human metastatic breast cancer.
    BMC Cancer. 2008 Jan 31;8:38. Read Abstract
  • Miceli-Libby L, Johnson MJ, Harrington A, Hara-Kaonga B, Ng AK, Liaw L. Widespread delta-like-1 expression in normal adult mouse tissue and injured endothelium is reflected by expression of the Dll1LacZ locus. J Vasc Res. 2008;45(1):1-9. Read Abstract
  • Tang Y, Urs S, Liaw L. Hairy-related transcription factors inhibit Notch-induced smooth muscle alpha-actin expression by interfering with Notch intracellular domain/CBF-1 complex interaction with the CBF-1-binding site. Circ Res. 2008 Mar 28;102(6):661-668.Read Abstract
  • Venkatesh DA, Park KS, Harrington A, Miceli-Libby L, Yoon JK, Liaw L. Cardiovascular and hematopoietic defects associated with Notch1 activation in embryonic Tie2-expressing populations. Circ Res. 2008 Aug 15;103(4):423-431. Read Abstract
  • Urs S, Roudabush A, O’Neill CF, Pinz I, Prudovsky I, Kacer D, Tang Y, Liaw L, Small D. Soluble forms of the Notch ligands Delta1 and Jagged1 promote in vivo tumorigenicity in NIH3T3 fibroblasts with distinct phenotypes. Am J Pathol. 2008 Sep;173(3):865-878.Read Abstract
  • O’Neill CF, Urs S, Cinelli C, Lincoln A, Nadeau RJ, Leon R, Toher J, Mouta-Bellum C, Friesel RE, Liaw L. Notch2 signaling induces apoptosis and inhibits human MDA-MB-231 xenograft growth. Am J Pathol. 2007 Sep;171(3):1023-1036. Read Abstract
  • Havrda MC, Johnson MJ, O’Neill CF, Liaw L. A novel mechanism of transcriptional repression of p27kip1 through Notch/HRT2 signaling in vascular smooth muscle cells. Thromb Haemost. 2006 Sep;96(3):361-370. Read Abstract
  • Urs S, Harrington A, Liaw L, Small D. Selective expression of an aP2/Fatty Acid Binding Protein 4-Cre transgene in non-adipogenic tissues during embryonic development. Transgenic Res. 2006 Oct;15(5):647-53. Read Abstract
  • Hara-Kaonga B, Gao YA, Havrda M, Harrington A, Bergquist I, Liaw L. Variable recombination efficiency in responder transgenes activated by cre recombinase in the vasculature. Transgenic Res. 2006 Feb;15(1):101-106. Read Abstract


Other Experience

2004-present Ad Hoc Reviewer, Vascular Cell and Molecular Biology (VCMB) Study Section, NIH

2005-present Member, Southern Maine Leadership Council, American Heart Association, Maine

2006-present Ad Hoc Reviewer, NIGMS, NIH

2006-present Ad Hoc Reviewer, NIDDK, NIH

2006 Reviewer, NEA1, Northeast Consortium, American Heart Association

2007-present Ad Hoc Reviewer, Cardiovascular Differentiation and Disease (CDD) Study Section, NIH

2008-2009 Vice Chair, American Heart Association Founders Affiliate Research Committee

2008-2011 Member, American Heart Association Fouders Affiliate Board of Directors

2009-2011 Chair, American Heart Association Founders Affiliate Research Committee

2009-present Member, American Heart Association National Research Committee

2010-present Chair, AHA Vascular Wall Biology Basic Science 3 Peer Review Committee

2010-present Member, Heart, Lung, and Blood Program Project Review Committee


Graduate Student Trainees

Daniel L. Myers, Ph.D. (Mentor) UMaine, BMMB, Ph.D. 2004

Penny (Russell) Glacy, M.S. (Co-Mentor) UMaine, Functional Genomics M.S. 2004

Matthew C. Havrda, Ph.D. (Mentor) UMaine, BMMB, Ph.D. 2005

Sheila Hongyi Duan, M.S. (Co-Mentor) Univ. Southern Maine, Applied Med. Sci. M.S. 2006

Christine O’Neill, Ph.D. (Mentor) UMaine, BMMB, Ph.D. 2007

Alicia Plumer, M.S. (Co-Mentor) Univ. Southern Maine, Applied Med. Sci. M.S. 2008

Yuefeng Tang, Ph.D. (Mentor) UMaine, BMMB, Ph.D. 2011

Joshua Boucher, B.S. (Mentor) Current Student, GSBS

Bahman (Beau) Rostama, B.S. (Mentor) Current Student, GSBS

Sarah Peterson, M.D. (Mentor) Current Student, GSBS


Postdoctoral Trainees

Renu Agnihotri, M.D. 2000-2003

Yu Alice Gao, Ph.D. 2001-2003

Bochiwe Hara-Kaonga, Ph.D. 2003-2007

Sumithra Urs, Ph.D. 2004-2008

Deepak Venkatesh, Ph.D. 2006-2010

Sarah Peterson, M.D. 2008-2009 (entered GSBS Ph.D. program)


Visiting Scientist Trainees

Lymari Funetes Claudio, Ph.D. summer 2006 and summer 2007


Recent Course Participation


Spring 2009, Course Co-Coordinator and Lecturer, BMB550 UMaine, Cell Biology of Tissue Development and Function

Spring 2009, Course Coordinator and Lecturer, BMS690, UMaine Instrumentation Techniques in Cell/Molecular Biology

Fall 2009, Instructor, BMS690, Independent Study, Graduate Level

Spring 2010, Course Co-Coordinator and Lecturer, BMB550 UMaine, Cell Biology of Tissue Development and Function

Spring 2010, BMS690, Independent Study, Graduate Level

Spring 2010, Guest Lecturer, PHS 112, UNE College of Pharmacy, Pharmacogenomics

Fall 2010, BMS690, Independent Study, Graduate Level

Fall 2010, Course Coordinator and Lecturer, BMB597, Mouse Genetic Models and Imaging Module

Fall 2010, Course Co-Coordinator, BMS690, Cancer Biology: Myeloid Leukemia

Fall 2010, Guest Lecturer, Maine Medical Center Introduction to Research Course

Fall 2010, Guest Lecturer, Biochemistry, Univ. New England, Biddeford

Spring 2011, Course Co-Coordinator and Lecturer, BMB550 UMaine, Cell Biology of Tissue Development and Function

Spring 2012, Course Co-Coordinator and Lecturer, BMB550 UMaine, Cell Biology of Tissue Development and Function

Spring 2012, BMS690, Independent Study, Graduate Level

Fall 2012, BMS690-3, Experimental Methods in Cell and Molecular Biology