The focus of my research lies with protein nucleic acid assemblies that participate in the replication and maintenance of eukaryotic chromosome ends, called telomeres. Telomeres protect chromosome ends from gradual length erosion, prevent end-to-end fusions and recombination, and promote proper chromosome partitioning during meiosis. Telomere length deregulation and telomerase activation are early and perhaps necessary steps in cancer cell evolution. Furthermore, telomerase and telomere dysfunction are thought to contribute to replicative senescence and programmed cell aging.
Despite these fundamental roles in maintaining genome integrity and cell fate, surprisingly little is known about the molecular basis of telomere synthesis by telomerase. We are interested in elucidating the mechanism of telomere replication by telomerase and understand how telomere and telomerase binding proteins regulate telomerase activity and protect chromosome ends. The lab primarily uses structural methods coupled with biophysical and biochemical techniques to study the above systems.