Robert J Duronio
Area of Interest
One of the most fundamental aspects of animal development is the control of the cell division cycle. Without this control there would be no coordination between cell proliferation and the formation of the gross anatomy of an organism. In my laboratory we are interested in understanding how the molecular processes that establish pattern formation and determine cell fates during development control the cell cycle. We use genetic and biochemical approaches to examine how specific cell cycle regulators (e.g. E2F, cyclins, cdks) function, and then use this information to explore how their activity is influenced by different developmental programs. In the past several years it has become apparent that the structure and function of molecules controlling the cell cycle are highly conserved between mammals and Drosophila. This allows us to exploit certain advantages that Drosophila has over mammalian systems for studying growth control and cell cycle regulation. One important advantage is the ease with which molecular genetic approaches can be applied to the study of gene function in the context of the whole animal. Another is the relative simplicity of fruit flies: the study of many mammalian cell cycle regulators is complicated by the existence of gene families whose members have overlapping or redundant functions, whereas the Drosophilia homologs of these molecules are often encoded by single genes. Genetic analyses of these genes in Drosophila provide a powerful tool for understanding the fundamental roles of cell cycle regulators in controlling cell proliferation. In this way Drosophila can contribute important information for understanding aspects of the deregulated growth typical of cancer. Our research involves several different projects aimed at understanding the G1-S transition of the cell cycle, including the control of gene expression by E2F and the pRB tumor suppressor, expression of replication dependent histone mRNAs, and ubiquitin mediated proteolysis of cell cycle regulators.
Awards and Honors
- 1997 Damon Runyon Scholar Award
- 2000 NSF Career Award
- 2003 UNC Ruth and Phillip Hettleman Prize for Artistic and Scholarly Achievement
- 2008 Academic Leadership Fellow, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC