Research

10,000 trillion cell divisions per human lifetime
6 billion base pairs of DNA to replicate each cell division cycle
Thousands of DNA lesions per cell per day

How does this work?

Most cells in our bodies need to have the exact same genome.  DNA replication is amazingly accurate but it is challenged by DNA damage, DNA sequences with a propensity to form odd structures, and conflicts with transcription. Thus, every cell division cycle requires the activation of replication stress response pathways to deal with these problems and ensure replication is completed faithfully.  How this happens properly, what goes wrong in diseases states like cancer or developmental disorders, and how can we exploit this knowledge to impact human health are the questions that drive the research in the Cortez Lab.

We use a multidisciplinary approach to this research including biochemistry, genetics, cell biology, and structural biology in both mammalian and yeast systems. On any one day in the lab there may be a student or post-doc analyzing proteomics data, examining the localization of a protein by immunofluorescence microscopy, performing a whole genome RNA interference screen in human cells, studying signaling in the budding yeast S. cerevisiae, purifying an enzyme, introducing a mutation into a gene, and transfecting genes or siRNAs into human cultured cells. This variety of approaches provides both exciting opportunities for discovery as well as a rich atmosphere for training graduate students and post-doctoral fellows.

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