Heads of Laboratories
Frederick R. Cross, Ph.D.
Laboratory of Cell Cycle Genetics
Cell cycle control involves the precisely coordinated production and destruction of numerous proteins that activate cell cycle events in cells from yeast to human beings. The regulation of these events has central significance to diseases including cancer, which results when cells divide without restraint, having ignored certain cell division checkpoints. The tight regulation of cell cycle control also is critical to the process of cell differentiation.
Using budding yeast as a model system, Dr. Cross uses both genetic and biochemical approaches to investigate the molecular basis of cell cycle control. He is looking to understand how critical regulatory proteins called cyclins control cell cycle progression, both through their timely degradation and through their ability to be highly selective of the molecules with which they interact. Other areas of study in the Cross lab are devoted to the development of mathematical models that represent control of the cell cycle and to the creation of single-cell imaging methods for regulation of gene expression and protein localization through the cell cycle. Members of his lab are also investigating the regulation and activity of a specific phosphatase, Cdc14, that counteracts cyclin activity during mitosis. The laboratory is interested in systematic approaches to cell cycle control, including mathematical modeling.
A recently initiated project concerns cell cycle control in the green alga Chlamydomonas, which is a good microbial genetic model for the plant superkingdom. Plant genetics is challenging because of long generation times, diploid genetics and ancient polyploidizations that result in many genes being present in multiple functional copies, masking loss-of-function phenotypes. Chlamydomonas, with essentially a full plant genome with respect to core cell biology including cell cycle regulation, has almost all of its genes in single copy, is haploid, and is amenable to classic microbial genetics as well as modern molecular methods. The lab plans to create a systematic collection of mutations in all genes involved in Chlamydomonas cell cycle control in order to begin focused studies on similarities and differences in eukaryotic cell cycle control across kingdoms.
Cell cycle control is of central concern in a number of diseases, including cancer, which results when certain cell division checkpoints are ignored and the cells divide without restraint. In other cells, such as stem cells, cell cycle control is even more tightly regulated and is critical to the process by which cell differentiation occurs. Dr. Cross’s studies are likely to have ramifications for both of these areas.
Dr. Cross received his undergraduate degree in biology from Swarthmore College in 1978 and his Ph.D. in viral oncology from The Rockefeller University in 1984. He was a postdoc in the department of genetics at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle from 1985 to 1989, in the laboratory of the late Harold Weintraub, before returning to Rockefeller in 1989 as assistant professor. He became associate professor in 1993 and professor in 1995.
Dr. Cross was a Lucille P. Markey Scholar from 1988 to 1992. He was a Helen Hay Whitney Postdoctoral Fellow from 1985 to 1988 and a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow from 1978 to 1981.
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