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Dr Elaine Dunleavy

Honorary lecturer
Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow

Research interests

  • Centromere assembly and propagation in meiosis and early development

Research overview

Mitosis and meiosis are fundamental cellular processes required for the correct transmission of genetic material during cell division cycles. Centromeres are key regions of eukaryotic chromosomes where the kinetochore assembles to ensure proper chromosome segregation during mitosis and meiosis.

However, despite its essential function, centromere identity is not defined by DNA sequence, but is instead determined epigenetically by the presence of a centromere-specific histone variant CENP-A. During mitosis, errors in CENP-A assembly result in genome instability and aneuploidy, both hallmarks of cancer. Yet the roles and regulation of CENP-A assembly in meiosis are at present largely unknown.

My key research question is to understand how CENP-A is targeted to and reproducibly incorporated at centromeres during meiosis and germ cell development.

Using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model developmental system, I aim to investigate the function, cell cycle timing and regulation of CENP-A assembly during male and female gametogenesis.

A major focus of my research is to determine how CENP-A is maintained on sperm and if the inheritance of paternal CENP-A is important for centromere function and genome stability in the developing zygote.

Selected publications

  • Dunleavy EM, Zhang W, Karpen GH, Solo or Doppio: How Many CENP-As make a centromeric nucleosome? Nat Struct Mol Biol. 20 (6): 645-768 (2013)
  • Dunleavy EM, Beier NL, Gorgescu W, Tang J, Costes SV, Karpen GH, The cell cycle timing of centromeric chromatin assembly in Drosophila meiosis is distinct from mitosis yet requires CAL1 and CENP-C. PLoS Biol, 10(12): e1001460 (2012)
  • Dunleavy EM, Almouzni G, Karpen GH, H3.3 is deposited at centromeres in S phase as a placeholder for newly assembled CENP-A in G(1) phase. Nucleus 2: 146-157 (2011)
  • Dunleavy EM, Roche D, Tagami H, Lacoste N, Ray-Gallet D, Nakamura Y, Daigo Y, Nakatani Y, Almouzni-Pettinotti G, HJURP is a cell-cycle-dependent maintenance and deposition factor of CENP-A at centromeres. Cell 137: 485-497 (2009)
  • Probst AV, Dunleavy E, Almouzni G, Epigenetic inheritance during the cell cycle. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol 10: 192-206 (2009)