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Gene Regulation & Cell Proliferation

Program Leader: David Spector
Program Co-leader: Chris Vakoc


The Gene Regulation and Cell Proliferation Program represents an interdisciplinary program with the central aim focused on understanding the regulation of gene expression and cell proliferation in both normal and cancer cells. The program has three main focus areas: (1) DNA replication, (2) epigenetics, and (3) RNA biology.

Studies on DNA replication are focused on its regulation in normal and tumor cells and how chromosomes are inherited in mitosis. DNA replication in papillomaviruses, which gives rise to cervical carcinoma, is also studied. In addition, biochemical and crystallographic approaches are applied to determine the structure of proteins involved in DNA replication and transcriptional regulation.


Various model systems are used to investigate epigenetic mechanisms of transposon silencing, gene regulation and stem cell fate via functional genomics and developmental genetics. In addition, the spatial and temporal aspects of gene expression/silencing are studied within the context of living cells. Histone methylation pathways and specific methyltransferases are also studied, with a focus on their role in human leukemia. 

Research on RNA biology is concerned with characterizing the RNA output of the genome, how these molecules are regulated, and how they impact gene regulation and/or nuclear organization. In addition, research is focused on oncogenic transformation driven by specific proteins involved in pre-mRNA splicing as well as a role for alternative splicing in cancer cell metabolism.