Department of Biology
Biology Faculty Profile
Rachelle Spell
Senior Lecturer
rachelle.spell@emory.edu
Office Phone: 404-727-5828 | Office Room: Rollins 2015
Office Address: Emory University, Department of Biology, O. Wayne Rollins Research Center, 1510 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta , GA 30322

Research Area:
Genetics, Cell, and Developmental Biology

Degree:

B.S., Wake Forest University, 1987
Ph.D., Harvard University, 1993

I use yeast to study the regulation of recombination, the most important pathway for the repair of double-stranded breaks in DNA. Most breaks are repaired by copying information from an exact copy of the DNA molecule, a process called homologous recombination. However, inappropriate recombination between sequences of similar yet imperfect homology (called "homeologous" recombination) can lead to deleterious outcomes such as chromosomal rearrangement, alteration of gene expression, or homozygosis. A screen by undergraduate researchers for factors important in the regulation of recombination identified two mutants with a mutation in the gene called SGS1. SGS1 is a homolog of the human helicase genes implicated in cancer and premature aging syndromes, the Bloom and Werner genes, respectively. Disruption of the helicase-encoding gene, SGS1, causes an increase in homeologous recombination relative to homologous recombination. Further work has demonstrated sequences important for the the interaction of the Sgs1 and mismatch repair proteins. Future experiments will refine this information and explore the requirements of that interaction for regulation of recombination. Another area of study has explored the ability of the human homolog of the yeast SGS1 gene called the Bloom gene or BLM to replace the yeast gene. Future research will develop an assay in yeast to measure the activity of BLM alleles taken from patients with the Bloom cancer syndrome.


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