Lab News

  • Congratulations to Oscar for being named as one of UNC’s 2023 Gilliam Fellows nominees!

The HHMI-supported Gilliam program aims to create the next generation of leaders to promote inclusion and diversity in the sciences.

Sarah was awarded a SURE undergraduate research fellowship. She will be working with Sean over the summer on epigenetic regulation in early embryos.

  • Congratulations to Lucy Grossmann, who was awarded a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship from the NIH.

Lucy will be working with Jeanne-Marie on histone homeostasis, as part of a collaboration with Bob Duronio’s lab.

  • Check out our new manuscript posted on BioRxiv.

We found that the nuclear receptor EcR plays no role in controlling accessibility of temporally dynamic enhancers despite its position at the top of the hierarchy directing developmental timing. This work was driven by Chris Uyehara and Mary Leatham-Jensen in the lab. Read the preprint here. (May 2022)

  • Congratulations to Spencer for publishing his new R package memes in PLoS Computational Biology.

memes seamlessly integrates the MEME Suite of motif analysis tools into the R statistical computing and graphics platform. memes provides utilities for using GRanges objects as entry points to motif analysis, data structures for examining and editing motif lists, and novel data visualizations. Check out the Bioconductor package here. And Spencer’s github page here. And the manuscript here(Sep 2021)

  • Congratulations to Oscar for being appointed to the GMB T32 training grant!

  • Welcome to new Ph.D. students Sean and Oscar!

Both Sean and Oscar matriculated through UNC’s BBSP umbrella graduate admissions and first-year graduate training program. And they both joined the GMB Ph.D. curriculum. So excited to have you as part of the lab! Oscar and Sean are both starting new projects aimed at understanding epigenetic gene regulation in early embryogenesis. (May 2021)

  • Farewell and Congratulations to Chris and Spencer!

Chris Uyehara successfully defended his thesis in March, 2021. He is currently a postdoc in Effie Apostolou’s lab at Weill Cornell Medical.

Spencer successfully defended his thesis in June, 2021. He is currently a bioinformatician at nearby Locus Biosciences.

  • Congratulations to Matt for his recent Current Opinions review.

This review article summarizes dynamic control of enhancer activity in insect development. Read it here(Sep 2020)

  • Congratulations to Spencer for his recent paper in eLife.

As part of a collaboration with Rob Harris’ lab at Arizona State University, and Iswar Hariharan’s lab at Berkeley, Spencer helped examine the regenerative response to tissue damage. Like many tissues, wing imaginal discs can regenerate in response to tissue damage. However, regenerative capacity decreases as tissues mature. This paper sought to globally identify damage-responsive transcriptional enhancers. Read it here(June 2020)

  • Congratulations to Jeanne-Marie for her appointment to the GMB training grant!

This is a prestigious (and competitive) 2-year appointment! Jeanne-Marie also received an Honorable Mention for her NSF predoctoral fellowship application. (June 2020)

  • Welcome to new Ph.D. student, Jeanne-Marie McPherson!!

Jeanne-Marie is joining the GMB curriculum and will be jointly mentored with Dr. Bob Duronio(April 2020)

  • Congratulations to Spencer and Matt for their recent Development paper investigating how transcription factors control chromatin accessibility.

Matt & Spencer examined a transcription factor named E93, which is required for specification of adult cell identities late in development. Through expression of E93 at an earlier stage of development, they found that “precocious” E93 can advance the wild-type developmental program, leading to a model in which temporal transcription factors control the competence of target enhancers to respond to spatial cues. Read it here. (March 2020)

  • Congratulations to Alex for her recent Methods publication “Advancements in mapping 3D genome architecture.

This review article was written as part of a collaboration with Jill Dowen’s lab. It discusses two new methods (SPRITE & Trac-looping) used to interrogate the 3-dimensional organization of the genome within the nucleus. Alex’s thesis project explores the factors and mechanisms underlying 3D genome architecture in Drosophila. (January 2020)

  • Welcome to Elli Fackelman from Laura Buttitta’s lab.

Elli is a Ph.D. student at the University of Michigan from our collaborator Laura Buttitta’s lab. She is spending two weeks in our lab learning how to perform CUT&RUN from fly tissues. (July 2019)

  • Congratulations to Alex for her appointment to the GMB training grant!

Alex is a joint student with Jill Dowen’s lab (Biochemistry, Biology, iBGS). (June 2019)

  • Welcome to new Ph.D. students Alexis Stutzman and Cyril Anyetei-Anum.

Both Alex and Cyril have joined the GMB curriculum. We are excited to have them in the lab! (June 2019)

  • Congratulations to Chris for his PNAS paper on the role of the Ecdysone Receptor in mediating transcriptional responses to hormone signaling.

Using a combination of genomics and transgenic reporter analyses, he found that EcR binds far more extensively across the genome than was expected from prior studies, suggesting EcR plays a direct role in regulating the activity of thousands of genes. This is also one of the first papers to employ a new genomic profiling method called CUT&RUN, originally developed by Steve Henikoff’s lab. (May 2019)

  • Congratulations to Mary for her PLoS Genetics paper!

This study reveals a role for the histone variant H3.3 in Polycomb target gene repression. Modification of H3.3 lysine 27 is typically associated with gene activation. However, Mary created an H3.3K27R mutant allele using CRISPR, which appears to have no effect on gene activation. Instead, she found defects in Polycomb target gene repression. (Jan 2019)

  • Congratulations to Spencer for his talk at the Fly Meeting! (March 2019)

  • Farewell to Yoshi!

Yoshi is an Associate Professor in the Biology Department at the University of Miami Ohio. He spent two months in the lab doing genomics on Tribolium. It was great to have him in the lab. Better yet, he got good data back after sequencing!

  • McKay Lab awarded MIRA grant from the NIH.

This is an “umbrella” grant from NIGMS that will fund the lab for 5 years. Research funded by the grant will explore the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of transcriptional regulation. (August 2018)

  • Farewell to Daphne Knudsen!

Daphne has worked in the lab as an undergraduate researcher for the past 2 years. She will be getting her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland beginning this Fall. Congratulations on graduating from UNC and for getting into grad school, Daphne! (June 2018)

  • Matt awarded NSF predoctoral fellowship.

Matt was selected from more than 12,000 applicants for this prestigious 3-year award. Congratulations!! (link) (April 2018)

  • Congratulations to Chris for a great talk at the 59th Annual Fly Meeting! (April 2018)

  • McKay Lab awarded 4-year grant from the American Cancer Society. 

Research during the term of this grant will investigate how enhancers are switched on and off during development. (October 2017)

  • Congrats to Spencer for being selected to give a talk at the upcoming Abcam Epigenetics, Chromatin Structure, and Epitranscriptomics Conference!  (September 2017)

  • Congrats to Matt for passing his Genetics and Molecular Biology Curriculum written exam!  (August 2017)

  • Congrats to Chris for being selected to give a talk at the Genetics retreat! Only 6 students are selected for talks.  (August 2017)

  • Matt Niederhuber’s piece appears in Development’s blog “The Node”

Matt wrote a piece for The Node blog, which is hosted by the journal DevelopmentIn the piece, Matt described the story behind our recent Gene’s and Development paper about the role of ecdysone signaling in regulating accessibility of temporally-dynamic enhancers in the wing. Nice job, Matt! (August 2017).

  • Farewell to Hannah Brodner!

Hannah is a rising senior at Ripon College in Wisconsin. She spent 10-weeks in the lab this summer as part of the UNC SURE program. Hannah worked with Spencer studying the mechanisms underlying temporal specific responses to ecdysone hormone signaling. She presented her research at the Summer Undergraduate Pipeline Research Symposium. Great job in the lab, Hannah! Keep in touch.  (July 2017).

  • Congratulations to Matt on his appointment to the GMB Training Grant!

Matt earned a coveted slot on the NIGMS Genetics & Molecular Biology T32 Training Grant. This prestigious award funds Matt’s graduate work for one year. Congrats, Matt!  (June 2017).

  • Congratulations to Chris, Spencer, Matt, and Mary for manuscript published in Genes & Development!

This paper describes the role of ecdysone hormone signaling in controlling access to enhancers at different times in development. We found that a transcription factor induced by hormone signaling, named E93, is required for proper accessibility of temporal-specific enhancers. In the absence of E93, late-acting enhancers fail to open and fail to turn on. Surprisingly, E93 mutants also fail to close early-acting enhancers, causing them to be aberrantly active at later stages of development. Collectively, this work suggests that extrinsic signals drive development forward in time by controlling which regions of the genome are accessible for use. The paper was accompanied by an Outlook article by a pioneer in the field, Carl Thummel. Congrats everyone!! (April 2017).
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