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Bruce Stillman

President & Professor
Ph.D., Australian National University, 1979

(516) 367-8383 (p)
Every time a cell divides, it must accurately copy its DNA. With 3 billion “letters” in the human genome, this is no small task. My studies reveal the many steps and molecular actors involved, as well as how errors in DNA replication are involved in diseases that range from cancer to rare genetic disorders.

Bruce Stillman’s lab studies the process by which DNA is copied within cells before they divide in two. Working with yeast and human cells, Stillman and colleagues have identified many of the cellular proteins that function at the DNA replication fork during the S phase, the portion of the cell-division cycle when DNA synthesis occurs. Among these proteins are those that facilitate the assembly of chromatin, the protein–DNA complexes that form the chromosomes. The prime focus of current research, however, is the mechanism that initiates the entire process of DNA replication in eukaryotic cells. At the heart of this mechanism is a protein that binds to “start” sites on the chromosomes, called the origin recognition complex, ORC. This year, the Stillman lab was part of a collaboration that determined the cryo-EM structure of ORC proteins in complex with a group of proteins, called a helicase, that unwind DNA during replication. This image offers molecular insight into how the helicase is loaded onto DNA. Stillman’s research also focuses on the process by which duplicated chromosomes are segregated during mitosis. The team has found ORC at centrosomes and centromeres, structures that orchestrate chromosome separation during mitosis. Stillman’s team has discovered that mutations in the largest protein found in this complex, Orc1, alter the ability of ORC to regulate both DNA replication and centrosome duplication. These mutations have been linked to Meier–Gorlin syndrome, a condition that results in extreme dwarfism, small brain size, and related characteristics of abnormal growth.

Li, H. and Stillman, B. 2012. The origin recognition complex: a biochemical and structural view. Subcell. Biochem.62: 37–58.

Mazurek, A., Luo, W., Krasnitz, A., Hicks, J., Scott, Powers, S. and Stillman, B. 2012. DDX5 regulates DNA replication and is essential for cell proliferation in a subset of breast cancer cells. Cancer Discov.2: 812–819. 

Hossain, M. and Stillman, B. 2012. Meier-Gorlin Syndrome mutations disrupt an Orc1 CDK inhibitory domain and cause centrosome re-duplication. Genes Dev.26: 1797–1810. 

Nakano, S., Stillman, B. and Horvitz, H. R. 2011. Replication-coupled chromatin assembly generates a neuronal bilateral asymmetry in C. elegans. Cell147: 1525–1536. 

Sheu, Y-J. and Stillman, B. 2010. The Dbf4-Cdc7 kinase promotes S phase by alleviating an inhibitory activity in Mcm4. Nature463: 113­–117.

Dr. Bruce Stillman, CSHL President, wins 2014 Herbert Tabor Research Award
April 21, 2014
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