Bethany Schaffer, Ph.D.



Favorite movie: Arrival

Hometown: Louisa, KY

Non-science activity: cycling, preferably in Northern California

Dream benchmate: a Melinda Gates/Elon Musk hybrid

One item from your bucket list: convince John Blenis that mTORC1 is just another downstream effector of AMPK

Your scientific interests: countering anthropogenic climate change so that cell signaling still matters in the future

Current research interests: understanding ERK2-driven regulation of protein transport in cancer progression


After completing my bachelor’s degree at the College of William and Mary, I worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Julien Sage where I studied the tumor suppressive capacity of the Retinoblastoma family of proteins in mouse models of both non-small cell and small cell lung cancers. Intrigued by the signaling networks that underlie pathological states, I went on to conduct my thesis work with Anne Brunet at Stanford University, where I used a chemical genetics technique in collaboration with Kevan Shokat to elucidate novel downstream effectors of AMPK, a major energy sensor of the cell. In addition to identifying additional metabolic substrates of AMPK, I found that AMPK regulated a number of proteins involved in cell migration and invasion and that AMPK phosphorylation of one such substrate, NET1A, inhibited degradation of the extracellular matrix, an important step in metastasis.

During my postdoctoral work in the Blenis lab, I am studying the cellular changes that occur downstream of pro-metastatic signaling cascades in breast cancer and how these changes help drive disease progression.

Honors and Awards

F32 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, NCI, NIH

Stanford Graduate Fellowship

National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship

Selected Publications

Theret M, Gsaier L, Schaffer B, Juban G, Ben Larbi S, Weiss-Gayet M, Bultot L, Collodet C, Foretz M, Desplanches D, Sanz P, Zang Z, Yang L, Vial G, Viollet B, Sakamoto K, Brunet A, Chazaud B, Mounier R. (2017) AMPKα1-LDH pathway regulates muscle stem cell self-renewal by controlling metabolic homeostasis. EMBO J. 36(3):1946-1962.

Hardie DG, Schaffer BE, Brunet A. (2016) AMPK: An Energy-Sensing Pathway with Multiple Inputs and Outputs. Trends Cell Biol. 26(3):190-201.

Schaffer BE, Levin RS, Hertz NT, Maures TJ, Schoof ML, Hollstein PE, Benayoun BA, Banko MR, Shaw RJ, Shokat KM, Brunet A. (2015) Identification of AMPK Phosphorylation Sites Reveals a Network of Proteins Involved in Cell Invasion and Facilitates Large-Scale Substrate Prediction. Cell Metab. 22(5):907-21.

Banko MR, Allen JJ, Schaffer BE*, Wilker EW*, Tsou P, White JL, Villén J, Wang B, Kim SR, Sakamoto K, Gygi SP, Cantley LC, Yaffe MB, Shokat KM, Brunet A. (2011) Chemical genetic screen for AMPKa2 substrate uncovers a network of proteins involved in mitosis. Mol Cell. 44(6):878-92.

Viatour P, Ehmer U, Saddic LA, Dorrell C, Andersen JB, Lin C, Zmoos AF, Mazur PK, Schaffer BE, Ostermeier A, Vogel H, Sylvester KG, Thorgeirsson SS, Grompe M, Sage J. (2011) Notch signaling inhibits hepatocellular carcinoma following inactivation of the RB pathway. J Exp Med. 208(10):1963-76.