DPLM Faculty Profiles — Dr. Scott Williams

Scott Williams, PhD

Scott E. Williams, PhD

Assistant Professor

Office: 919-966-2737

E-mail: scott_williams@med.unc.edu

C.V. (PDF)

Research Interests

The mammalian skin epithelium is an ideal model system to study fundamental questions in stem cell and cancer biology. It is accessible; it can be cultured, genetically manipulated and transplanted; and its resident stem cells possess unparalleled regenerative capacity. Our skin, unlike many other organs, undergoes continuous growth and turnover. In development and homeostasis, progenitors in the skin must balance self-renewal and differentiation programs. We have found that asymmetric cell divisions are a critical mechanism by which skin progenitors maintain this equilibrium. We are interested in studying how this asymmetry is controlled at a molecular level, and how division orientation impacts cell fate choices in normal and neoplastic growth. To facilitate these and other studies in diverse epithelia, we have developed a powerful functional tool, in utero lentiviral RNAi, which allows us to rapidly perform functional studies on any gene in the intact mouse in weeks instead of years. Our broad goal will be to use this technique, in combinations of candidate and screening approaches, to dissect pathways that influence epithelial differentiation.


Williams figure 1


Selected Publications

Williams SE, Beronja S, Pasolli HA and Fuchs E (2011). Asymmetric cell divisions promote Notch-dependent epidermal differentiation. Nature 470: 353-358. [Pubmed]

Ezratty E, Stokes N, Chai S, Shah A, Williams SE and Fuchs E (2011). A role for the primary cilium in Notch signaling and epidermal differentiation during skin development. Cell 45: 1129-41. [Pubmed]

Luxenburg C, Pasolli HA, Williams SE and Fuchs E (2011). Developmental roles for Srf, cortical cytoskeleton and cell shape in epidermal spindle orientation. Nat Cell Biol 13: 203-14 [Pubmed]

Beronja S, Livshits G, Williams SE and Fuchs E (2010). Rapid functional dissection of genetic networks via tissue-specific transduction and RNAi in mouse embryos. Nat Med 16: 821-7. [Pubmed]

Perez-Moreno M, Song W, Pasolli HA, Williams SE and Fuchs E (2008). Loss of p120 catenin and links to mitotic alterations, inflammation and skin cancer. PNAS 105: 15399-404. [Pubmed]

Williams SE, Grumet M, Colman DR, Henkemeyer M, Mason CA, and Sakurai T (2006). A role for Nr-CAM in the patterning of binocular visual pathways. Neuron 50: 535-47. [Pubmed]

Williams SE, Mason CA, and Herrera E (2004). The optic chiasm as a midline choice point. Curr Opin Neurobiol 14: 51-60. [Pubmed]

Williams SE, Mann F, Sakurai T, Erskine L, Wei S, Rossi DJ, Gale N, Holt CE, Mason CA, and Henkemeyer M (2003). Ephrin-B2 and EphB1 mediate retinal axon divergence at the optic chiasm. Neuron 39: 919-935. [Pubmed]

Erskine L, Williams SE, Brose K, Kidd T, Rachel RA, Goodman CS, Tessier-Lavigne M, and Mason CA (2000). Retinal ganglion cell axon guidance in the mouse optic chiasm: expression and function of Robos and Slits. J Neurosci 20: 4975-82. [Pubmed]

View list of publications from

PubMed Articles
LGN plays distinct roles in oral epithelial stratification, filiform papilla morphogenesis and hair follicle development.

LGN plays distinct roles in oral epithelial stratification, filiform papilla morphogenesis and hair follicle development.

Development. 2016 Jun 17;

Authors: Byrd KM, Lough KJ, Patel JH, Descovich CP, Curtis TA, Williams SE

Oral epithelia protect against constant challenges by bacteria, viruses, toxins, and injury while also contributing to the formation of ectodermal appendages such as teeth, salivary glands, and lingual papillae. Despite increasing evidence that differentiation pathway genes are frequently mutated in oral cancers, comparatively little is known about the mechanisms that regulate normal oral epithelial development. Here, we characterize oral epithelial stratification and describe multiple distinct functions for the mitotic spindle orientation gene LGN in promoting differentiation and tissue patterning in the oral cavity. Similar to its function in epidermis, apically localized LGN directs perpendicular divisions that promote stratification of the palatal, buccogingival and ventral tongue epithelia. Surprisingly, however, in dorsal tongue, LGN is predominantly localized basally, circumferentially, or bilaterally, where it promotes planar divisions. Loss of LGN disrupts the organization and morphogenesis of filiform papillae but appears to be dispensable for embryonic hair follicle development. Thus, LGN has critical and tissue-specific functions in patterning surface ectoderm and its appendages by controlling division orientation.

PMID: 27317810 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]