This laboratory studies how environmental signals affect transcriptional regulation in yeast using a combination of biochemical, molecular and genetic analysis.
Normal cell growth and development are highly regulated by hormones and factors from the environment, and cells respond to these signals by regulating expression of appropriate genes. Many diseases are caused or influenced by alterations in the relationship between cell signaling and gene regulation. For example, development of cancer can largely be attributed to uncoupling of gene regulation from growth factor signaling. Similarly, the pathology of AIDS is strongly influenced by control of HIV-1 gene expression through T cell activation signals. To elucidate fundamental mechanisms controlling signal responsive expression, we study the regulation of specific transcription factors in human T cells and the model eukaryotic organism Saccharomyces cerevisiae . Our research has been instrumental in revealing how responses to multiple signals can be coordinated through the function of the RNA polymerase II-associated protein kinase CDK8. Additionally, we have identified a human transcription factor that regulates establishment of latent HIV-1 provirus and controls reactivation of viral replication in response to T cell signaling.