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Steven J. Ontiveros, MBA, PhD

Chair of Anatomy & Cell Biology
Associate Professor of Anatomy and Cell Biology

Room 321
Phone: 575- 674-2331
Department: Anatomy & Cell Biology
Office of Research & Sponsored Programs


College of Business
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM

Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, NM

Research Interests

The biological universe is amazingly diverse – from multicellular animals such as humans and plants to single-celled bacteria. These various organisms comprise cells of various shapes and sizes, with masses of biomolecules with various activities and functions. These biological molecules are the foundations of life and have been for the most part fundamentally conserved from one organism to another with slight inherent differences. It is these similarities and differences found within biological molecules between organisms where my research interests lie. My current research interests fall within the field of small molecule development, with an emphasis on the development drugs for cancer therapeutics and the development of novel fluorescent molecular probes for the use in live-cell imaging applications for biological research. There has been a significant rise in interest for the development of small molecules within the last decade due in part to the ease of chemical synthesis and characterization, and low immunogenicity.

My research interest concerning small molecule drugs is to develop mitochondria-targeting molecules and assess their effects on cancer cells. The objectives of this project are to synthesize anti-cancer drug derivatives fused to moieties that target the mitochondria and assess the effects on cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth. Mitochondria have been the focus of many therapeutic interventions, due in part to the roles mitochondrial defects play in oncogenesis. These interests aim to exploit the differences between normal and cancerous cells and specifically target those deficiencies found within malignant ones.

A second research interest I have is in the development of fluorescent probes for intracellular targeting. This project, with the help of a few collaborators at New Mexico State University, aims to develop these fluorescent molecules as functional, quantitative assays for the use in live-cell imaging applications. This project aims to develop novel fluorescent probes with capabilities of measuring cellular activity, and to develop in situ bio-orthogonal labeling strategies of intracellular proteins.

Another research interest I have is exploring the p53 response to the mitotic arrest in normal and cancerous cells. These studies aim to elucidate the dynamics of p53 activation during and following mitotic arrest and exit, respectively, and to investigate the roles the Salvador-Warts-Hippo pathway plays in stabilizing p53.