University of Alberta
Dr. Dixon’s research interest focuses on gene expression as it relates to several fundamental cell biological processes including cell adhesion, and protein metabolism and secretion. In particular, current research involves the study of a family of four-pass membrane proteins implicated in a variety of cellular processes including adhesion and motility, platelet activation, growth factor signalling and cell proliferation. An understanding of the critical factors regulating these essential biological processes will have direct application to a variety of important issues in animal science including fertilization, embryo implantation and development, parasite infection and lactation.
Dr. Dyck’s research interests are in gamete physiology and early embryonic development in swine. His research is currently focused on the development and application of molecular techniques and advanced reproductive technologies in collaboration with the pork production industry to improve reproductive efficiency in swine.
Dr. Fitzsimmons is interested in how biological systems influence the development of lean meat and fat tissues, specifically looking through the window of gene expression. Many new and exciting areas have now come to the forefront regarding the control of gene expression via dietary means, and the different individual responses to changes in diet (nutrigenetics). By utilizing changes in gene expression due to diet and/or other treatments, researchers can tease out a clearer understanding of how biological systems function and then apply this knowledge to practical situations, for example beef production. Dr. Fitzsimmons is also interested in permanent gene expression changes that can be programmed in the next generation due to nutrition and/or other factors affecting the parental generation.
Dr. Graf studies how alterations in Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) signaling in vivo affects the development of orofacial structures; this helps to demonstrate how altered BMP signaling results in orofacial malformations. Untangling the molecular and cellular interactions will not only provide a better understanding of the developmental processes in question, but will also facilitate novel approaches for tissue repair and regeneration.
Dr. Guan’s research in bovine functional genomics involves establishing links between genomics results and economically important traits in livestock species. This includes elucidation of molecular mechanisms of livestock production traits using gene expression profiling, identification of rumen microbial structures with cattle economically important traits at the genetic and transcriptomic levels, and characterization of genes involved in microbe-microbe/host-microbe interaction.
Dr. Hendzel’s laboratory investigates the basic biology of the genome and the cell nucleus. The maintenance of genome stability (mechanisms that ensure the faithful transmission of chromosome number), the regulation of DNA double strand break repair, and the regulation of the genome through epigenetic mechanisms are being studied at the level of single cells with the objective of identifying mechanisms that have the potential to be translated into novel rationale therapies.
Dr. Hobman’s lab has two main projects. 1) Studying the cis- and trans-acting factors that regulate RNA interference-dependent gene silencing. 2) Interactions between RNA viruses and hosts at the cellular level.
Dr. Mason’s laboratory has identified a human betaretrovirus in patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC), an autoimmune liver disease. The current investigations focus on mechanisms of how infection triggers disease by (i) determining the prevalence of betaretrovirus infection in patients with PBC using serology and by identifying proviral integration sites in patients samples; (ii) investigating how infection with the closely related agent, mouse mammary tumor virus triggers autoimmune biliary disease in several mouse models of PBC; (iii) investigating how the virus mediates a disease-specific phenotype in vitro by triggering the expression of sequestered autoantigens on the cell surface to break tolerance to self mitochondrial proteins; and (iv) translational studies studying whether anti-retroviral therapy leads to histological, biochemical and clinical improvements in mouse models of PBC and (v) randomized controlled trials studying specific highly active anti-retroviral therapy in patients with PBC. Other viral cloning studies are underway with identification of a novel retrovirus associated with primary sclerosing cholangitis. Dr. Mason directs The Applied Genomics Core NGS sequencing facility for the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta. He also co-directs a viral discovery program in collaboration with Dr. Gane Wong using a metagenomic, deep sequencing approach. The targeted diseases include autoimmune and chronic inflammatory disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease as well as specific cancers.
Areas of Research: Allostatic load and preterm delivery; inflammatory mediators of preterm birth
Dr. Olson’s research focuses on decreasing the rate of preterm birth and improving pregnancy outcomes. Current research includes studying how stress and other environmental factors influence the frequency of preterm birth.
Dr. Postovit is interested in how microenvironments, such as oxygen and the extracellular matrix, regulate normal and cancer stem cell plasticity and function and to elucidate the mechanisms by which such microenvironments elicit their effects. Ultimately, these studies will lead to the development of methods to maintain normal stem cell pluripotency and to inhibit cancer cell plasticity and metastasis.
Dr. Schang is interested in the mechanisms whereby cellular chromatin regulates the transcription of viral genes and the identification and characterization of novel antiviral compounds acting via epigenetic mechanisms. Dr. Schang’s group and many others have found in the last 10 years that chromatin silencing is an innate cellular antiviral defense against nuclear replicating DNA viruses. Different viruses have evolved different mechanisms to counteract or bypass this defense. For the larger DNA viruses, the mechanisms involve the expression of viral proteins that regulate the chromatin dynamics in infected cells. The balance between chromatin silencing and antisilencing plays a central role in the regulation of the alternation between latent and lytic infections. Dr. Schang’s group uses chromatin fractionation, advanced imaging, next generation sequencing, chemical virology, proteomics ,and a variety of biochemical, cell and molecular biology techniques to study the roles of chromatin silencing as an antiviral response.
Dr. Schultz uses genetics, biochemical reconstitution of transcription and chromatin assembly, and mRNA and metabolite profiling to understand how the epigenome is controlled. This includes epigenetic regulation by products of carbon metabolism (you are what you eat), and control of chromatin configuration by histone modifying enzymes and chaperones.
Dr. Underhill is examining how the methylation of lysine 20 on histone H4 modulates cell differentiation and how this process becomes aberrant in cancer. In addition to providing a means to compact the genome so that it fits within the nuclear confines, histones serve diverse roles in facilitating expression, repression and long-term silencing, replication, recombination, repair of damaged DNA, and mitosis. Over and above the regulatory information embedded in the genome, these different processes require a broad range of epigenetic controls that include chemical modification of DNA and histones, histone variants, linker histones and other chromatin architectural proteins, as well as the RNAi machinery.
Dr. Willing’s research aims to understand how members of the gut microbiome contribute to the metabolism of the diet and how this process contributes to microbial regulation of host physiology. His research manipulates microbial community structure using antibiotic and gnotobiotic (germ-free) animal models and use tissue culture, metabolomics and transcriptomics to study this complex system. By understanding the mechanisms (including epigenetic factors) through which microbes regulate host physiology and which bacteria are responsible will allow researchers to alter the microbiota to promote health in livestock and humans.
The focus of Dr. Wozniak’s laboratory is to understand the mechanism by which the Nuclear Pore Complexes (NPCs) and karyopherins control constitutive and regulated nuclear transport and how these processes mediate gene expression, chromosome segregation, and cell-cycle progression.
University of Calgary
/ Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute / Genome Instability and Aging Group (GIAG)
Enabling high through-put inference from large genomic datasets using novel computational, statistical, and bioinformatic approaches.Predicting the functional impact and clinical significance of sequence variation in individual human genomes.
Dr. Fujita’s lab is focused on the development and use of strategies to inhibit tumor growth and metastases utilizing RNA interference (RNAi) with specific siRNAs or combinations of siRNAs that knock-down levels of important cancer causing proteins. Currently, tumor penetrating peptides (TPPs) and TPP-nanoparticle delivery systems are being designed and evaluated for their ability to block breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis in mouse model systems.
Dr. Goodarzi’s research endeavors to understand how processes involving nucleosome remodeling enzyme complexes promote and regulate DNA double-strand break responses and repair following ionizing radiation exposure and, in doing so, improve knowledge of cancer formation, human aging and radiation protection.
Dr. Hallgrimsson’s research interests include attempting to understand the genetic or developmental causes of phenotypic variation within species or among related species and how extremes of multifactorial phenotypic distributions can lead to developmental malformations such as cleft lip and palate. Dr. Hallgrimsson is also interested in how developmental systems modulate the translation of genetic into phenotypic variation through the phenomenon of canalization, developmental stability, and morphological integration.
Dr. Johnston’s lab is investigating how some cancers acquire resistance to oncolytic viruses used to treat many types of cancer. The goal of understanding this resistance is to develop strategies to avoid or reverse this resistance. Dr. Johnston’s lab is also investigating genomic evolution in cancer and in model bacteria as an indicator of disrupted regulatory pathways.
Position/Titles: Assistant Professor, DACT, DECAR
Dr. Klein’s research interests include using the horse as a model to study the epigenetic consequences of assisted reproductive techniques.
Pregnancies arising from Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) in the horse are characterized not only by low efficacy but also by neonates displaying major adaptation complications in the immediate postnatal period. In cattle, offspring arising from SCNT pregnancies are often suffering from the so called Large Offspring Syndrome and altered epigenetic traits have been identified as the underlying cause. Children conceived by artificial reproductive technologies (ART) are at an increased risk of having imprinting disorders such a Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome and Angelman syndrome. While it is known that the use of ART leads to alteration of epigenetic traits, such as aberrant methylation patterns, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. Dr. Klein uses the innovative approach of inter-species hybrids between horse and donkey to study the epigenetic effects of ART, namely the alteration of imprinted genes.
Unlike stem cells taken from normal individuals, stem cells derived from the synovium of patients with osteoarthritis (OA) are not completely functional in their ability to become cartilage. Hence, we believe this is one potential mechanism behind why in individuals with OA cartilage breaks down resulting in pain, stiffness and inflammation. In order to develop effective treatments, it will be essential to investigate the relationship between inflammation within the joint and the behavior of the stem cells. Preliminary data has demonstrated that the profile of cytokines in the synovial fluid with progression of OA is potentially linked to the inability of the stem cells to generate/repair cartilage. The understanding of mechanisms regulating this interaction between inflammation and stem cell mediated cartilage repair can be used effectively in novel diagnostic & prognostic assessments of OA.
Dr. Letourneau’s CHILD (Child Health Intervention and Longitudinal Development) Studies Program develops and tests interventions that support the development of infants and children growing up in families affected by toxic stressors including parental depression, addictions, intimate partner violence and low-income. She focuses on the relationship between protective factors of quality parent-infant/child relationships, and children’s physiological and developmental health.
Dr. Lukowiak’s current research interests focus on how environmentally relevant stressors modify the causal neuronal mechanisms of learning, memory formation, and forgetting. Dr. Lukowaik is especially interested in how stress alters memory formation in the pond snail, Lymnaea stagnalis; especially ecologically relevant stressors such as predator detection and crowding. Stress can either enhance or suppress LTM formation depending on both the stressor and when the stress is perceived by the animal.
Dr. Lees-Miller’s lab studies how mammalian cells detect and repair DNA double strand breaks (DSBs). DSBs are the most cytotoxic form of DNA damage. They can be caused by exogenous DNA damaging agents such as ionizing radiation (IR), reactive oxygen species (ROS) and topoisomerase poisons and occur as a consequence of natural cellular processes such as oxidative metabolism and V(D)J recombination. Cells that are unable to detect and/or repair DSBs are highly radiosensitive and exhibit genomic instability.
One of the major projects in the lab is to understand the mechanism of Non Homologous End Joining (NHEJ), which is the major pathway for the repair of IR-induced DSBs in human cells. Dr. Less-Miller’s labs is using a variety of biochemical and biophysical approaches to understand how the key proteins in this pathway interact with DSBs and each other.
Richard’s technological interests span a broad spectrum of nucleic acid oriented technologies; everything from novel uses of synthetic oligonucleotides and the development of nucleic acid-based drugs through to novel chemistries and applications of “next-generation” sequencing.
Dr. Riabowol’s research focuses on the biochemical & genetic mechanisms, including epigenetic factors, that enforce replicative senescence in normal human diploid fibroblasts and determine how cells are able to evade them in becoming immortal cancer cells. For example, the Riabowol lab investigates the functions of the ING1-5 (INhibitor of Growth) family of tumor suppressors. ING proteins has been shown to interact with histone acetylation and deacetylation enzymes and are chromatin regulators and contribute to regulating chromatin structure in health and disease.
Position/Titles: Professor / Director Department of Neuroscience
Dr. Schuurmans’ lab is focused on understanding how transcription factors regulate cell fate choices in the developing neocortex and retina, ensuring that appropriate numbers of the correct types of neuronal and glial cells are generated at their proper time and place. In the neocortex she has uncovered a role for chromatin modifications in regulating the timing of neuronal differentiation at different developmental stages. Mechanistically, Dr. Schuurmans has found that a Polycomb group protein, Mbt1, binds to and regulates the function of the proneural protein Neurog2, thereby preventing Neurog2 from promoting rapid neurogenesis at later developmental stages.
Dr. Thundathil’s research program is focused on understanding the molecular regulation of spermatogenesis and sperm function. He has a special interest in bull fertility, in vivo and in vitro production of cattle embryos, and preserving the genetics of endangered wildlife through reproductive technologies.
University of Lethbridge
Dr. Golsteyn’s Cancer Cell Laboratory focuses on human cell biology to answer questions about cancer mechanisms and discover new cancer drugs. The laboratory uses cell-based assays to investigate biochemical and epigenetic pathways that cause cancer cells to be different from normal cells. Recently, the Cancer Cell Laboratory developed the Prairie to Pharmacy Program in which were designed to find new cancer drugs against key biochemical and epigenetic targets in cancer biology.
Dr. Kolb’s research focuses on how neurons in the cerebral cortex change in response to experiences, drugs, hormones and injury, and how these changes influence behavior. His work has fueled new treatments to help victims of stroke, Alzheimer’s, drug abuse and head injury. Dr. Kolb was the first to demonstrate how new brain cells grow to restore cerebral function and that psychomotor stimulants produce permanent changes in neuronal structure. Recently he has been examining how environmental and drug experiences differentially affect subregions of the prefrontal cortex of rats.
Dr. Kothe studies the modification of RNAs in bacteria and eukaryotes. RNA modification is in particular important in non-coding RNAs contributing to RNA stability and function. Dr. Kothe’s research aims at understanding the function, mechanism and modification of RNA by investigating a range of RNA modification enzymes. A particular focus lies on the formation of pseudouridines during ribosome biogenesis, a complex assembly process generating the cell’s protein factories consisting of four large RNAs and more than 50 proteins. As ribosomes are of critical importance for each cell, alterations in ribosome biogenesis lead to human diseases. In order to better understand ribosome formation on a molecular level, Dr. Kothe’s research focuses on the early steps of this process where only a small number of factors are involved. Therein, she applies a multi-disciplinary approach including molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, and genetics, allowing her to gain detailed insight into the functional cooperation of proteins and RNA in the assembly of cellular machines.
Dr. Igor Kovalchuk’s interests include genetics and epigenetics of plant response to stress. He studies the influence of various internal (metabolic activity, biological clock, development) and external (abiotic – ionizing and UVB radiation, chemicals; biotic – pathogens like viruses, viroids, fungi stresses) factors on plant genome stability. In particular he is interested in epigenetic regulation of transgenerational adaptation to stress and developing novel methods for improvement of plant transformation.
Dr. Olga Kovalchuk investigates the role of epigenetics in carcinogenesis and cancer treatment responses as well as the influence of epigenetics in radiation induced genome instability, DNA repair and carcinogenesis.
Dr. McDonald’s research is directed at understanding dynamic interactions amongst learning and memory systems, multiple memory system dysfunction and psychiatric disorders, the role of multiple combinations of co-factors in the etiology of Alzheimer’s disease, factors contributing to cognitive and motor impairments following stroke, multiple pathways for memory consolidation, the contribution of neurogenesis in hippocampus to memory function, and the deleterious effects of cannabinoids on memory.
Dr. McNaughton’s research focuses on the molecular, cellular and brain system mechanisms of memory and memory disorders associated with aging and brain damage. Dr. McNaughton is a key member of an interdisciplinary team involved in the development of immediate-early gene activation markers of neural activity in the brain. This method permits visualization of the recent history of activity in the brain at cellular resolution, thus allowing identification of not only which areas of the brain are activated during cognitive processing, but which specific neurons. This method will provide an important complement to non-invasive, but lower resolution, functional neuroimaging studies using magnetic resonance.
Dr. Gibb has conducted research to assess the potential utility of pre- and postnatal environmental stimulation to improve behavioral recovery after early cortical injury in rats. Her current research is to determine:
1.) how early experience influences brain development and
2.) what effect these anatomical changes have on subsequent experience.
The research program of Dr. Metz focuses on the influence of experience and environment on behaviour and brain plasticity. Her work showed that stress affects motor system function, risk of Parkinson’s disease and recovery from stroke. This research indicated that adverse experience at any time in life can become a predisposing or precipitating factor of disease. More recently, her laboratory has developed models to explore transgenerational inheritance of stress responses. Through epigenetic programming (non-coding RNA and DNA methylation) we have shown that experience in parents, grandparents and beyond can influence health and disease in offspring from early development to old age.
Dr. Southerland’s current research investigates the neurobiology of learning, memory, and amnesia in rodents and humans.
Dr. Wieden is interested in the molecular basis of regulatory processes within living systems that involve RNA and RNA/Protein-based information processing and trans-generational information storage. The Wieden Group’s focus is to unravel the underlying biomolecular design principles in order to forward-engineer novel functions (Synthetic Biology) as well as enable targeted therapeutic approaches. To do so, the primarily focus is on the later steps of gene expression, in particular protein synthesis is regulated in different biological systems such as viruses, eukaryotes, and prokaryotes. They use a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches including molecular dynamics simulations, rapid kinetics and single-molecule measurements. Furthermore, the Wieden Group is we interested in how (lnc)RNAs and ribonucleoprotein complexes are involved in the different layers of gene expression regulation and information processing with an additional focus on temporal and special regulation.