The Skordalakes Laboratory
The laboratory of Emmanuel Skordalakes studies the complex protein assemblies that participate in the replication and maintenance of chromosome ends, known as telomeres. Telomeres protect the chromosome ends from gradually eroding during DNA replication and they prevent chromosomes from fusing and recombining thus providing the genomic stability required for cell viability. Telomeres do, however, gradually become shorter, a process that is partly responsible for the aging process. Furthermore, telomere length deregulation is a hallmark—and perhaps necessary part—of the cancer cell evolution. The Skordalakes laboratory uses mostly structural, biochemical and cell-based assays to elucidate the function of telomerase, the enzyme that is mainly responsible for telomere replication, and its associated proteins. The laboratory is also interested in identifying small molecule modulators of telomerase activity as potential therapeutics for cancer and age-related diseases.
Bradley Miller, Ph.D.
Sarah Plucinsky, Ph.D.
Telomere replication is mediated by telomerase, an RNA dependent DNA polymerase structurally similar to retroviral reverse transcriptases and viral RNA polymerases. Biochemical studies on telomerase for more than two decades have provided a wealth of information regarding telomerase function and substrate specificity. Despite this information, the biophysical mechanisms underlying telomerase architecture and function are poorly understood. Our goal is to further elucidate the molecular basis of telomere replication by telomerase using structural and biochemical approaches. The information generated here should provide novel insights into the basic mechanisms of telomere replication and length homeostasis. It will further enrich our understanding of the mechanism of DNA replication by polymerases in general. It will provide a framework to design small molecule inhibitors of telomerase that may be of therapeutic value for cancer and other diseases associated with cellular aging.
In recent years, a number of factors essential for telomerase regulation and telomere maintenance have been identified. The method by which telomerase and associated regulatory factors physically interact and function with each other to maintain appropriate telomere length is poorly understood. Structural and biochemical characterization of these factors, both in isolation and in complex with one another will facilitate our understanding of how the proper function of these factors impacts telomerase function and cell proliferation.
Louise C. Showe, Ph.D.
Professor, Molecular & Cellular Oncogenesis Program
Associate Director, Center for Systems & Computational Biology
Scientific Director, Genomics Facility
Scientific Director, Bioinformatics Facility