Deena Joan Small


Ph.D., Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

University of Maine, Orono


B.S., Biochemistry

University of Maine, Orono


Post-Doctoral Training

Biochemical Studies in Molecular Medicine

Maine Medical Center Research Institute Center for Molecular Medicine




Fat and Bone Cell Differentiation

Jagged1/Notch and FGFR Signaling Networks

Biological Effects and Toxicology of Polybrominated Diphenyl Flame Retardants


Current Research

My laboratory's research is centered on problems investigating molecular mechanisms governing both adipogenesis (fat cell differentiation) and osteogenesis (bone cell differentiation). A primary focus of the laboratory is to define the signaling events mediated by interactions that occur between the Jagged1/Notch and FGF/FGFR signaling networks in mesenchymal stem cells exposed to hormones such as insulin.  A second and more recent area of study revolves around understanding how Polybrominated Diphenyl Ether (PBDE), a common flame retardant found in upholstery, carpeting, electronics and other household goods, alters the adipogenic and osteogenic program in cultured cells and animal(mouse) models.  As a biochemist/molecular biologist, my studies are aimed at untangling the protein/protein, receptor/ligand and protein/DNA interactions that take place in the context of these processes. In addition,physiological outcomes, including changes in metabolism and hormone production, are also evaluated using in vivo rodent models. Since white adipose tissue serves as both an energy-storing depot for high energy lipids and an endocrine ÒorganÓ that secretes hormones important for metabolism and other physiological processes, it is not surprising that abnormal states of adiposity such as obesity are high risk factors for the development of insulin-resistance syndromes (Metabolic Syndrome and Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus) and other pathological conditions. In addition, we have also found that PBDE exposure may cause problems with bone cell development and contribute to osteoporosis. Since my research is Biomedical in nature, the primary funding mechanism I have sought for these studies is through the National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association.

In addition to my research, I have also been involved in outreach into the middle school chemistry and biology classrooms. I am currently in the process of developing an interactive website with the Sanford,Maine Middle School Science Department that will facilitate interactions between students in my laboratory and the Sanford classrooms. This outreach has also led to the development of independent study opportunities for undergraduate students interested in working in the Sanford school system and/or on the website. Funding for this outreach is being sought through the NSF and Honda Corporation.

Research Interests

My research interests are focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate the differentiation of stem cells into either adipocytes (fat cells) or osteocytes (bone cells). Specifically

Selected Publications

1. Prudovsky I., Landriscina M., Soldi R., Bellum S., Small D., Andreeva V., Maciag T., FGF Reporter Gene Chimeras to Study Nuclear Translocation and Non-Classical Exocytosis. Meth.Enzymol., 2000; 327:369-382.

2. Wong MKK., Prudovsky I., Vary C., Booth C., Liaw L., Mousa S., Small D., Maciag, T.  A Non-Transmembrane Form of Jagged-1 Regulates the Formation of Matrix-dependent Chord-like Structures.  Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2000; 268:853-859.

3. Lindner V., Booth C., Prudovsky I., Small D., Maciag T., Liaw L., Members of the Jagged/Notch Gene Families are Expressed in Injured Arteries and Regulate Cell Phenotype via Alterations in Cell-matrix and Cell-cell Interactions. Am. J. Pathol., 2001; 159:875-883.

4. Small D., Kovalenko D., Kacer D., Liaw L., Landriscina M., Di Serio C., Prudovsky I., Maciag, T.  Soluble Jagged 1 Represses the Function of Its Transmembrane Form to Induce the Formation of the Src-dependent Chord-like Phenotype. J. Biol. Chem. 2001; 276:32022-32030.

5.  Small, D., Kovalenko, D., Soldi, R., Mandinova, A., Kolev, V., Trifonova, R., Bagala, C., Kacer, D.,Battelli, C., Liaw, L., et al. (2003).  "Notch activation suppresses fibroblast growth factor-dependentcellular transformation." J Biol Chem 278, 16405-16413.

6.  Hu, Q. D., Ang, B. T., Karsak, M., Hu, W. P., Cui, X. Y., Duka, T., Takeda, Y., Chia, W., Sankar, N.,Ng, Y. K., Ling, E. A., Maciag, T., Small, D.,Trifonova, R., Kopan, R., Okano, H., Nakafuku, M.,Chiba, S., Hirai, H., Aster, J. C., Schachner, M., Pallen, C. J., Watanabe, K., Xiao, Z. C. (2003)."F3/contactin acts as a functional ligand for Notch during oligodendrocyte maturation."  Cell 115,163-175.

7. >Trifonova R, Small D, Kacer D, Kovalenko D, Kolev V, Mandinova A, Soldi R, Liaw L, Prudovsky I,Maciag T.  (2004).

Other Scholarly Activity

Oral presentation: October, 2009. American Chemical Society , Hartford, Connecticut. ÒAffect of PBDE Flame retardants on Adipogenesis and OsteogenesisÓ

Poster presentation: December 2010.
American Society for Cell Biology, Philadelphia, P

Funded Grants

NIH 1 R15 ES018958-01
Project Title: Effect of Polybrominated Diphenal Ether Flame Retardant Exposure on Osteogenesis
Principal Investigator: Small, Deena Institution: University of New England

NH 11H500
10/01/07 -9/30/010
Project Title: ÒRegulation of jagged1 Expression in Adipogenic Cells by Insulin, glucocorticoids and Phosphodiesterase InhibitorsÓ
Principal Investigator: Small, Deena Institution: University of New Hampshire

NIH R15 DK070599-01 
4/01/05- 12/31/07
Project Title: "Role of Jagged1 in Adipogenesis and Adipocyte Function"
Principal Investigator: Small, Deena Institution: University of New Hampshire

Research Topics

Deena Small

Deena Joan Small



Associate Professor, Biochemistry


Morgane Hall

(207) 602-2224