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Sponsored Projects and Research Compliance Office (SPARC)

Funding for discoveries in gene regulation

March 24, 2020

The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust has awarded Assistant Professor of Biology Sharon Torigoe $60,000 for her proposed research project, “Molecular mechanisms of transcription regulation in pluripotent stem cells.” The goal of the Murdock College Research Program for Natural Sciences is to help develop excellent faculty and undergraduate students by supporting high quality scientific research that is likely to contribute significantly to fundamental knowledge in the field. To this end, this competitive grant will allow Dr. Torigoe to engage at least five undergraduate students in meaningful research over the next three years, as well as purchase some necessary tools and supplies to enable this work.

Dr. Torigoe’s research program focuses on gene regulation in pluripotent stem cells. Regulation of gene expression plays key underlying roles in a variety of biological phenomena, including cell differentiation, responses to external stimuli, and the progression of human disease. The Torigoe research group is especially intrigued by cis-regulatory elements, a class of “junk DNA” sequences that do not directly code for proteins but are critical to maintain gene expression patterns in organisms. This new project will focus on the cis-regulatory elements for the gene KLF4, which is uniquely expressed in stem cells and is therefore an excellent model of t specific systems in stem cells. Under Dr. Torigoe’s direction, undergraduate students will carry out independent research projects involving biochemical and molecular biology approaches, addressing questions about the cis-regulatory elements for KLF4, and generating data to be published in peer-reviewed journals. Long-term, Dr. Torigoe and her research group will continue to investigate cis-regulatory elements from other key genes in pluripotent stem cells and other cell-types, which will expand knowledge of gene regulation more broadly and may contribute to efforts in regenerative medicine.

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