Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology Faculty List

All aspects of modern biomedical research rely, to some extent, on experimental strategies that allow investigators to manipulate protein structure and function, determine how and which genes are turned on and off during a variety of physiologic, developmental, pathologic and oncogenic processes, and to understand the day-to-day workings of living cells. Doctoral research training in all these areas provides students skills in the manipulation and analysis of recombinant DNA and genes that are collectively termed "molecular biology." Such skills are critical for the conduct of state-of-the-art biomedical research in the twenty-first century.

Research Programs

Gene Expression and Regulation: Understanding the molecular mechanisms that control gene expression is the goal of laboratories studying the control of expression of specific genes. Identification of both cis-acting (DNA sequence) elements in the promoter regions of these genes and enhancer elements that may lie outside the promoter is done by molecular dissection of gene regulatory elements in vitro. The genes that are being investigated using these approaches are important in:

  • Regulation of cell growth and development
  • Signaling pathways for hormones, neurotransmitters and growth factors
  • Causes of birth defects
  • Cancers of the breast, prostate, pancreas, head and neck
  • Control of the immune system
  • Viral pathogenesis

Analysis of Protein Structure/Function Relationships: A powerful approach to understanding the way in which individual amino acids and post-translational modifications of proteins may contribute to protein function evolved with the availability of complementary DNAs encoding specific proteins in conjunction with technology to modify, transfer and express the cDNAs in vitro. Recombinant DNA and mutagenesis strategies are being applied to studies on:

  • Growth factor and hormone receptors
  • Effectors of signal transduction pathways
  • Tumor antigens and viral proteins
  • Protein-protein interactions
  • Pathways of protein folding
  • Transcription factors
  • Tumor suppressor genes
  • Enzymes and glycoproteins
  • Interactions between cells and extracellular matrix
  • Effectors of apoptosis responses
  • Transporters and membrane proteins

Transgenic Animal Models: The use of transgenic mice bearing "knock-out" or "knock-in" of particular genes has been a revolutionary approach to understanding the role of genes in many biological processes and disease states. State-of-the-art facilities are available for DNA microinjection, growth of mouse embryonic stem cells, and the preparation, propagation and maintenance of transgenic mice. Novel uses for transgenic mouse models are being developed for vaccine preparation and analysis of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition, UNMC investigators have availed themselves of the facility's services to prepare knock-outs of:

  • Transcription factors
  • Tumor antigens such as mucins
  • Growth factors and their receptors

Genomics and Bioinformatics: The completion of the human genome project is a landmark scientific advance that has led to the acquisition of huge amounts of DNA sequence data, made tractable only through computer analysis. With the right technology, it is now possible to ask fundamental questions about the genes that make up a human being that could not be approached experimentally in the past. UNMC facilities and technical support are available for:

  • Molecular modeling
  • Computational analysis of protein folding
  • DNA microarray or "gene chip" technology