First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Journal of Cell Science, helping researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. Francisca Vitorino is first author on ‘ The antiproliferative effect of FGF2 in K-Ras-driven tumor cells involves modulation of rRNA and the nucleolus’, published in JCS. Francisca conducted the research described in this article while a PhD student in Julia Pinheiro Chagas da Cunha's lab at Instituto Butantan, São Paulo, Brazil. She is now a Research Lab supervisor in the lab of Benjamin A. Garcia at Washington University in St. Louis, USA. Her research interest is in mass spectrometry-based proteomics, focusing on chromatin proteome and histone post-translational modifications.

Francisca Vitorino

How would you explain the main findings of your paper in lay terms?

The cells in our body are divided into several compartments, which organize and divide all the functions of the cell. One of the main compartments is the cell nucleus. Nuclei contain our DNA and a lot of proteins. Proteins are particles responsible for almost all the functions in the cell. To study how nuclear proteins change and work during cancer, we treated the cells with a component called FGF2, which blocks growth specifically in cancer cells. It is really cool how a factor is able to know which cells have cancer and act only in these cells! As the proteins that associate with the DNA have a big impact on the response of the whole cell to treatment, we decided to look deeper into them. We found that FGF2 blocks cell growth by triggering so many pathways and functions that the cell can't continue to grow anymore and has a breakdown!

Were there any specific challenges associated with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?

The pandemic was a time of challenge for the world, and it was no different for the scientific field. I was in the middle of my internship in the USA when the lockdown started. I was lucky to be able to come back to Brazil, although it took a while to be able to start my experiments again. During this time, I also became pregnant: this was wonderful, but it was also really challenging to balance the pandemic, a pregnancy, and writing and defending my PhD thesis.

Why did you choose Journal of Cell Science for your paper?

The Journal of Cell Science is a prestigious journal that publishes high-quality papers. Also, the scope of the journal matched our work, which details the cell biology of the cell response to growth factor stimulus.

Multilayered effects of FGF2 stimulation on Y1 cells. The FGF2 effects are shown by comparing the early and late stimulus times. After 24 h of FGF2 stimulation, nucleolus disorganization, and transcriptional regulation are highlighted. Please see original article for a larger version.

Multilayered effects of FGF2 stimulation on Y1 cells. The FGF2 effects are shown by comparing the early and late stimulus times. After 24 h of FGF2 stimulation, nucleolus disorganization, and transcriptional regulation are highlighted. Please see original article for a larger version.

What motivated you to pursue a career in science, and what have been the most interesting moments on the path that led you to where you are now?

Science is a really interesting world where you can learn new things every day. The possibility of discovery and not having to stick to the same routine makes me motivated. Unfortunately, it is really hard to develop a research career in Brazil, so this led me to move to the USA where I'm able to have more opportunities to work in research.

What's next for you?

I'm currently working as a lab supervisor and manager, which allows me to get experience with science and management at the same time. However, I'm not really interested in pursuing a career as a principal investigator for now. I would maybe consider leaving academia for industry in the future due to the better career opportunities offered there for those who do not intend to become a PI.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that wouldn't be on your CV

I used to travel 200 km every day to go to the University where I did my PhD programme. I did this for 5 years consecutively – that was a long journey!

Francisca Vitorino's contact details: Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO 63130, USA.

E-mail: fran_nathalia@hotmail.com

Vitorino
,
F. N. d. L.
,
Levy
,
M. J.
,
Wailemann
,
R. A. M.
,
Lopes
,
M.
,
Silva
,
M. L.
,
Sardiu
,
M. E.
,
Garcia
,
B. A.
,
Motta
,
M. C. M.
,
Oliveira
,
C. C.
,
Armelin
,
H. A.
et al. 
(
2023
).
The antiproliferative effect of FGF2 in K-Ras-driven tumor cells involves modulation of rRNA and the nucleolus
.
J. Cell Sci.
136
,
jcs260989
.