Gregory Hannon is a pioneer in the study of RNA interference (RNAi), a process in which double-stranded RNA molecules induce gene silencing. Hannon and colleagues have elucidated key elements of the RNAi machinery. During the past several years, the Hannon lab has focused on the roles of small RNAs in germ cells, which tend to have the most elaborate set of small RNA pathways of any cell type. They have discovered an essential role for small RNAs, called Piwi-interacting RNAs (piRNAs), that are critical for proper oocyte development and guard the genome against transposable elements. This year, the lab conducted two screens, one in the fruit fly germline and another in somatic cells, to search for new components of the pathway that generates piRNAs. They identified dozens of genes that are required for piRNA production, offering insight into how germ cells ensure genomic integrity. The Hannon lab also strives to understand the biology of cancer cells, with a focus on breast and pancreatic cancer. They have led the way in using RNAi to study cancer biology and genetics, generating libraries of short-hairpin RNAs (shRNAs) that have been widely applied in gene-silencing studies. These libraries can then be used to identify new therapeutic targets for specific disease subtypes. In addition, they are exploring the roles of small RNAs as oncogenes and tumor suppressors and using genetic approaches to understand the biology of resistance to currently used cancer therapies. Another research thrust of Hannon’s team exploits the power of next-generation sequencing to understand the biology of the mammalian genome. Their efforts range from the identification of new classes of small RNAs to understanding human evolution and diversity, including an emphasis on the evolution of the epigenome and its role in driving cell-fate specification.
Watson School alumni spotlights
May 19, 2019
This year, the Watson School of Biological Sciences celebrates the 20th anniversary of its first entering class of six Ph.D. candidates in September 1999. At CSHL, students are introduced to a broad and multi-disciplinary way to study biological sciences, and think critically to solve problems in their research. The school’s mission has remained the same...
Watson School 2019 Ph.D.s
May 19, 2019
The hallmark of the graduate school at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is its innovative approach to advanced education in the biological sciences. Students who complete their degrees at the Watson School of Biological Sciences graduate as experimentalists and scholars who can pursue many and diverse careers. This May, seven students were awarded Ph.D. degrees. Here,...
Hannon named director of Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute
November 21, 2017
Dr. Greg Hannon has been named the new director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute, effective February 1. Currently an adjunct professor and HHMI Investigator at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Hannon was a mainstay of the CSHL faculty for over 20 years, and one of several people at the Lab who helped design the...
Library of CRISPR targeting sequences increases power and accuracy of the gene-editing method
July 20, 2017
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — CRISPR, the gene-editing technology that has taken biology by storm, is now more powerful than ever. Scientists have assembled a library of RNA sequences that can be used by researchers to direct the CRISPR-cas9 complex to cut DNA with exquisite, unprecedented precision. Among other advantages, the new tool greatly increases...
One experiment: How the breast “remembers” a first pregnancy
July 2, 2016
Women consistently report that nursing is easier after a first pregnancy. Some remarkable genomic work led by Professor Greg Hannon provides a biological reason for this effect and shows more broadly how bodily experiences can prepare us to respond to future stimuli. The razor-thin slice of breast tissue pictured here is sampled from a mouse...
U.S. Patent Office denies all 4 petitions filed by Benitec Biopharma against CSHL’s shRNA patents
April 6, 2016
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) is pleased to report that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office has denied all 4 petitions filed by Benitec Biopharma Ltd seeking to invalidate CSHL’s patents directed to shRNA. “We are happy with the result, but are not surprised.” said Dr. Bruce Stillman, President and...
Breast cancer survivors show Camila dos Santos what’s important about her research
November 17, 2015
iology has always felt personal to Assistant Professor Camila dos Santos. Looking back on high school biology in her native Brazil, she remembers, “it was just so interesting to me that there was a field of research that makes you understand how your body works.” Gaining a deeper understanding of how the body works remains...
Introducing the mighty Panoramix–defender of genomes!
October 15, 2015
Protein named for comic book hero is no joke: it guides gene-silencing machinery to sites of havoc-causing transposons Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Organisms from bacteria to humans must defend themselves against parasitic genetic elements called transposons, and the stakes are high. These pieces of DNA, which disrupt genes by jumping around in the genome,...
Scientists sequence genome of worm that can regrow body parts, seek stem cell insights
September 21, 2015
Worm’s genome could lead to better understanding of its regenerative prowess and advance stem cell biology Cold Spring Harbor, NY — Tourists spending a recuperative holiday on the Italian coast may be envious of the regenerative abilities of locally found flatworm Macrostomum lignano. Named for its discovery near the Italian beach town of Lignano Sabbiadoro,...
Alumna Elizabeth Murchison follows the evolutionary path of contagious cancer
July 15, 2015
When you hear the term “contagious disease,” what tends to come to mind? Perhaps it’s images of red-faced, watery-eyed people coughing, sneezing and rasping around in a public space when they should be home, resting in bed. Or maybe it’s the unpleasant memories of a firsthand experience with a bout of whooping cough, chickenpox or...
Cheloufi, S. and Dos Santos, C. O. and Chong, M. M. W. and Hannon, G. J. (2010) A Dicer-independent miRNA biogenesis pathway that requires Ago catalysis. Nature, 465(7298) pp. 584-U76.
Burbano, H. A. and Hodges, E. and Green, R. E. and Briggs, A. W. and Krause, J. and Meyer, M. and Good, J. M. and Maricic, T. and Johnson, P. L. F. and Xuan, Z. Y. and Rooks, M. and Bhattacharjee, A. and Brizuela, L. and Albert, F. W. and De La Rasilla, M. and Fortea, J. and Rosas, A. and Lachmann, M. and Hannon, G. J. and Paabo, S. (2010) Targeted investigation of the neandertal genome by array-based sequence capture. Science, 328(5979) pp. 723-725.
Malone, C. D. and Brennecke, J. and Dus, M. and Stark, A. and McCombie, W. R. and Sachidanandam, R. and Hannon, G. J. (2009) Specialized piRNA Pathways Act in Germline and Somatic Tissues of the Drosophila Ovary. Cell, 137(3) pp. 522-535 .
Czech, B. and Zhou, R. and Erlich, Y. and Brennecke, J. and Binari, R. and Villalta, C. and Gordon, A. and Perrimon, N. and Hannon, G. J. (2009) Hierarchical Rules for Argonaute Loading in Drosophila. Molecular Cell, 36(3) pp. 445-456.
Brennecke, J. and Aravin, A. A. and Stark, A. and Dus, M. and Kellis, M. and Sachidanandam, R. and Hannon, G. J. (2007) Discrete small RNA-generating loci as master regulators of transposon activity in Drosophila. Cell, 128(6) pp. 1089-103.Additional materials of the author at
CSHL Institutional Repository