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. Current research focuses on 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. The Stillman lab is part of an ongoing 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. These images offer molecular insights into how the helicase is loaded onto DNA. Stillman’s research also focuses on the process by which duplicated chromosomes are segregated during mitosis. They found ORC at centrosomes and centromeres, structures that orchestrate chromosome separation during mitosis. At centromeres, ORC subunits monitor the attachment of duplicated chromosomes to the mitotic spindle that pulls the chromosomes apart when they are correctly aligned. Stillman’s team has discovered that mutations in the Orc1 protein 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 people with extreme dwarfism and small brain size, but normal intelligence.
- Canada Gairdner International Award (with John Diffley, 2019)
- American Association for Cancer Research, Elected Fellow of the AACR Academy (2019)
- Doctor of Science, (honoris causa), Clarkson University (2018)
- Science and Technology Award, City of Suzhou, China (2018)
- National Academy of Inventors, Elected Fellow (2016)
- Herbert Tabor Research Award, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2014)
- Australian Academy of Science, Elected Corresponding Member (2012)
- Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, Columbia University (with Thomas Kelly; 2010)
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Elected Member (2008)
- Doctor of Science (honoris causa), University of Sydney (2008)
- Doctor of Science, (honoris causa), Long Island University (2007)
- Society of Surgical Oncology – American Cancer Society Basic Science Award and Lecture (2006)
- Curtin Medal for Excellence in Medical Research, Australian National University (2006)
- American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elected Fellow (2005)
- Alfred P. Sloan Prize, General Motors Cancer Research Foundation, (with Thomas Kelly; 2004)
- Doctor of Science (honoris causa), Stony Brook University (2002)
- Doctor of Humane Letters (honoris causa), Hofstra University (2001)
- Doctor of Science (honoris causa), New York Institute of Technology (2001)
- European Molecular Biology Organization, Associate Member (2001)
- American Academy of Microbiology, Elected Fellow (2000)
- National Academy of Sciences, Elected Foreign Associate (2000); Member as of 2013
- Order of Australia, AO (1999)
- Julian Wells Medal, Lorne Genome Conference, Australia (1994)
- The Royal Society (London), Elected Fellow (1993)
May 20, 2019
This spring, I was pleasantly surprised by the news that I would be honored with the 2019 Canada Gairdner International Award, together with John Diffley, for our research on eukaryotic cell DNA replication. The Gairdner Foundation’s announcement describes our work: By describing the exact sequence of events involved in DNA replication, Stillman and Diffley have...
An essay from the President: Biology for the planet
May 16, 2019
As we advance toward the middle of the twenty-first century, humanity faces an existential challenge: figuring out how to feed the world’s rapidly growing population in the face of climate change and the increasingly limited availability of key nutrients and suitable land for farming. We need solutions that are local, national and global to increase...
President Bruce Stillman wins prestigious Gairdner Award
April 2, 2019
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Dr. Bruce Stillman, President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL), has been awarded the 2019 Canada Gairdner International Award in honor of his pivotal contributions to basic research. The Canada Gairdner International Award recognizes researchers who have made seminal discoveries or contributions to biomedical science. Dr. Stillman is...
CSHL President elected as AACR Academy Fellow
March 25, 2019
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory President and CEO Dr. Bruce Stillman has been elected as a Fellow of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Academy. Dr. Stillman’s research examines the process of DNA replication, and how errors in this process are involved in various diseases, including cancer. The AACR Academy recognizes and honors distinguished scientists...
Big bold dreamers
December 10, 2018
2018 Double Helix Medal honoree Dr. Larry Norton has dedicated his career to ridding the world of cancer. Under the belly of the blue whale at the American Museum of Natural History, he reminded us that big dreams can come true. Larry shared childhood memories of visiting the museum with his mother. Pulling on her...
Elisabeth R. Woods Foundation donates to cancer research
July 17, 2018
On June 10th, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) welcomed donors of the Elisabeth R. Woods Foundation to a special gathering in support of lung cancer research. Elisabeth Woods’ granddaughter, Mary Leonard, welcomed the distinguished guests, and in her opening remarks, told the story of her grandmother’s battle with non-small cell lung cancer and the Elisabeth...
Documentary film: THE MOST UNKNOWN
June 22, 2018
Cinema Arts Centre presents Science on Screen Sponsored by Stu & Ginger Polisner THE MOST UNKNOWN Tuesday, July 31 at 7:30 pm | Members $11 | Public $16 Includes reception and panel discussion with: Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Scott McLennan, Ph.D., Stony Brook University Lisa Miller, Ph.D., Brookhaven National Laboratory The Most Unknown is an ...
The case for open and inclusive science
June 8, 2018
Science has been one of the most important contributors to American national strength over the past century, but particularly since the Second World War. During that extraordinary crisis, outstanding national leaders recognized the untapped power of discoveries in a broad range of disciplines, from chemistry and physics to biology and engineering. In 1944, President Franklin...
Nation’s cancer centers endorse HPV vaccination
June 8, 2018
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory joins NCI-designated cancer centers in endorsing the goal of eliminating HPV-related cancers Bruce Stillman, Ph.D., President and CEO of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and David Tuveson, M.D., Ph.D., Director of CSHL’s NCI-designated Cancer Center, today joined with the leaders of other institutions nationwide in endorsing the following statement regarding revised recommendations...
Nature’s masterpiece: the brain
May 11, 2018
Since 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has consistently advanced the frontiers of research and education in biology. How we have come so far is remarkable, considering that Darwin’s theory of evolution and Mendel’s explanation of genetics were at the cutting edge little more than a century ago. Curiosity-driven research, innovation and risk-taking underlie our...
Hossain, M. and Stillman, B. (2016) Opposing roles for DNA replication initiator proteins ORC1 and CDC6 in control of Cyclin E gene transcription. Elife, 5
Sheu, Y. J. and Kinney, J. B. and Stillman, B. (2016) Concerted activities of Mcm4, Sld3 and Dbf4 in control of origin activation and DNA replication fork progression. Genome Res, 26(3) pp. 315-330.
Li, H. and Stillman, B. (2012) The origin recognition complex: a biochemical and structural view. In: The Eukaryotic Replisome: a Guide to Protein Structure and Function. MacNeill, Stuart (Ed.). Subcellular Biochemistry. Subcell Biochem, 62 pp. 37-58. Springer.
Mazurek, A. and Luo, W. and Krasnitz, A. and Hicks, J. and Powers, R. S. and Stillman, B. (2012) DDX5 regulates DNA replication and is required for cell proliferation in a subset of breast cancer cells. Cancer Discovery, 2(9) pp. 812-825.
Nakano, S. and Stillman, B. and Horvitz, H. R. (2011) Replication-coupled chromatin assembly generates a neuronal bilateral asymmetry in C. elegans. Cell, 147(7) pp. 1525-1536.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository