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Michael Hampsey

B.A., SUNY - Geneseo
Ph.D., Purdue University
RWJMS-Research Building/SPH
683 Hoes Lane
Piscataway, NJ 08854-0009

Telephone: 732-235-5888
Facsimile: 732-235-5889

Lab Site

Regulation of gene expression; yeast genetics

Research Fields

  • Gene Expression
  • Chromatin
  • Yeast Genetics

Research Description

My laboratory studies the regulation of gene expression in eukaryotic organisms. We are especially interested in transcription of protein-encoding genes by RNA polymerase II (Pol II). The experimental organism used in our studies is the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae , which enables us to use a powerful combination of classical genetics, molecular biology and modern biochemistry to address fundamental questions in medical biochemistry. Our current efforts are focused on two related issues: 1) Coupling of Pol II transcription with pre-mRNA processing and nuclear export; and 2) The role of gene loops that juxtapose promoter-terminator regions in Pol II transcription. A remarkable feature of coupled Pol II transcription and mRNA processing is the extent to which these two processes are conserved among eukaryotic organisms. Gene loops also appear to be a general feature of Pol II transcription in eukaryotes and might be involved in “memory” of recent transcriptional activity and translocation of mRNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm.

1) Coupling of 3' end processing to Pol II transcription. Nascent mRNA undergoes modifications that include 5' capping, splicing, 3' endonucleolytic cleavage/polyadenylation, mRNP formation and nuclear export. These events occur co-transcriptionally and involve the recruitment and exchange of processing factors to the C-terminal domain (CTD) of the Rpb1 subunit of Pol II. The CTD, a reiterated heptad repeat (YSPTSPS) is phosphorylated and dephosphorylated at Ser2 and Ser5 (and probably Ser7) during the transcription cycle. We discovered that the Ssu72 protein is a CTD Ser5-P phosphatase and an integral component of the CPF 3' end processing complex. We are now focused on determining (i) how Ssu72-mediated Ser5-P dephosphorylation affects Pol II progression through the transcription cycle; (ii) how Ssu72 is regulated by the transcriptional, processing and nuclear export machineries; and (iii) the relationship of Ssu72 to other CTD phosphatases, including Fcp1 and Rtr1. We are collaborating on this project with Professor Claire Moore, Tufts Medical School . This work is supported by NIH grant RO1 GM068887.

2) Role of “gene loops” in transcription. Although Ssu72 is a component of the CPF 3' end processing complex, we first identified this protein based on genetic and physical interactions with TFIIB, a transcription initiation factor. As such, Ssu72 defined an unexpected link between the Pol II initiation and termination machineries. These observations led us to investigate potential physical interactions between the promoter and terminator regions. Our results revealed that gene loops are a general feature of Pol II transcription and underlie “memory” of recent transcriptional activity, defined as the very rapid transcriptional response following a cycle of activation and repression. We also identified several components of the nuclear pore complex as suppressors of looping-defective mutants, suggesting that gene loops and transcriptional memory are functionally integrated with mRNA export to the cytoplasm. Gene loops are unlikely to be a feature unique to yeast, as r ecent studies in the Proudfoot laboratory (Oxford) have also identified gene loops in mammalian cells, including promoter-terminator juxtaposition at the breast cancer BRCA1 gene, and between the 5' and 3' LTRs of the HIV provirus. This work is supported by NIH grant RO1 GM39484.

Hampsey Laboratory:

Adjunct Assistant Professor

  • Krishnamurthy Shankarling, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow:

  • Badri Nath Singh, PhD

Graduate Students:

  • Shivani Goel, MS
  • Jesus Rosado, BS