Anne Stellwagen, assistant professor, biology
Ph.D., University of California, San Francisco
Specialization: Chromosome dynamics
Representative publication: “Ku Interacts with Telomerase RNA to Promote Telomere Addition at Native and Broken Chromosome Ends,” Genes & Development
I’m interested in how the cell takes care of its DNA molecules. Lots of people are interested in how the instruction manual works, but I’m interested in how the cell takes care of the instruction manual. In particular, I’m interested in how the cell takes care of the ends of its DNA molecule. The analogy I usually use is shoelaces, which are linear pieces of cloth, with the ends of shoelaces protected by those little plastic things, called aglets. If you don’t have those, the shoelace frays and its integrity is lost. So chromosomes have a very similar kind of structure on the ends of their linear DNA molecules, a specific protein DNA structure called a telomere. I’m interested in how the cell uses that to protect the ends of chromosomes, the machinery that is involved in maintaining that structure, and what happens when something goes wrong with that structure.
I’ve always been interested in the things that chromosomes can do and the mechanisms itself that it develops to take care of those processes. I’m a biologist at heart, but there’s a real medical hope that if we understand more about this process then we might get some new ideas about therapies. So that gets me motivated.