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Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development - Program in Genomics of Differentiation

Judith Kassis Lab

Judith Kassis, who heads the Section on Gene Expression, studies the mechanism of gene silencing by the Polycomb group genes (PcG) in Drosophila and the nature of DNA elements responsible for silencing (called Polycomb response elements or PREs). Polycomb group proteins are important epigenetic regulators whose activities are very important in embryonic stem cells and for differentiation. PREs are several hundred nucleotides in length and are made up of binding sites for numerous proteins. One focus of the group is to discover all of the DNA binding proteins that are required for PRE activity. They recently reported the discovery of a zinc-finger Sp1/KLF family member, Spps, that binds to PREs and is required for PRE activity. The role of Spps in recruitment of Polycomb protein complexes is currently being explored. The lab also studies the regulatory DNA of one of the target genes for Polycomb group proteins, engrailed. The goal of these experiments is to understand how PREs act to silence engrailed expression in some cells, while leaving it actively transcribed in others.

Selected Publications