Intellectual merit. In order to fit within the small confines of a cell nucleus, DNA molecules need to be compacted through interactions with a number of proteins to form a complex referred to as chromatin. The basic unit of chromatin is the nucleosome, a particle consisting of DNA wrapped around a disc-like structure composed of histone proteins. In addition to directing DNA compaction in cells, nucleosomes are also important participants in most of the processes that occur on chromosomes, including the process of gene transcription. The focus of Dr. Duina's research is to elucidate the mechanisms that control the elongation phase of transcription, the phase during which DNA is copied into RNA molecules, in the context of chromatin. The project has two aims. One is to better define how yFACT, a complex with well-defined roles in transcription elongation, interacts with chromatin on transcribed genes. The other aim is to establish whether TORC1, a complex responsible for coordinating nutrient signals with cell growth and division, has a role in promoting transcription elongation across genes. These experiments will be carried out using biochemical and genetic approaches in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the model system. Given the high degree of evolutionary conservation between yeast and human cells, the results obtained will provide novel insights into basic biological processes relevant to all eukaryotic organisms.

Broader Impacts. This project will provide an exceptional opportunity for undergraduate students to be involved in meaningful scientific research. Under the guidance of Dr. Duina, undergraduate students will participate in the design and execution of experiments related to this project and will be fully engaged in the critical evaluation of the data generated from their studies. In addition, students working in Dr. Duina's laboratory will have the opportunity to present the results from their research at regional and national research conferences. This project will also include the participation of undergraduate students outside the context of Dr. Duina's laboratory, as a subset of the experiments will be carried out by students enrolled in one of the courses taught by Dr. Duina at the college. Collectively, these experiences will introduce undergraduate students to the wonderful world of scientific research and will undoubtedly play critical roles in shaping their career choices as they progress through college and beyond.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences (MCB)
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Casonya Johnson
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Hendrix College
United States
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