Will J. Kopachik
Ph.D., Princeton University, 1980
39 Natural Science Building
Office Telephone: 517-353-5166
Developmental Biology and Genetics
My research focus is the transcriptional control of embryogenesis. Which genes are, or are not, transcribed into mRNA largely determines a cell’s growth characteristics, the gene products and ability to move or change shape during development. We are primarily interested in transcriptional control of prostate normal and neoplastic development.
A current model of eukaryotic gene transcription suggests that a multi-protein complex including RNA polymerase and other largely constitutive proteins, the basal machinery, initiates gene transcription. Other cell-specific accessory proteins called transcription factors, which bind to specific DNA sequences nearby in the promoter or elsewhere in enhancer sequences, will determine whether a gene is to be appropriately transcribed. Commonly transcription factors bind to their target gene sequence and then recruit the basal machinery to that promoter. We recently found a class of transcription factors, termed the winged-helix group, which may play this role in prostate cells.
The winged-helix protein, hepatocyte nuclear factor 3 alpha (HNF-3α), is unusually abundant in the prostate. The high expression starts when prostate epithelial cells develop and continues into adulthood. We want to determine what role HNF-3α and other transcriptions factors play in embryogenesis and tumorigenesis of the prostate. Eric Olle’s and Natacha Janvier’s research includes determining the target genes whose transcription is regulated by HNF-3α in the prostate. Another student, Cong Ding, has cloned and sequenced other winged-helix genes expressed in the prostate and will determine the tissue and cell-type distribution of these genes. Our long term goal is to understand the role of these transcription factors in normal and neoplastic growth of the prostate.
We also collaborate on Dr. R. Neal Band in examining virulence-related gene expression in the amoebic pathogen, Naegleria fowleri.
Kopachik, W., S. Hayward and G.R. Cunha. 1998. Expression of hepatocyte nuclear factor-3 alpha in rat prostate, seminal vesicle and bladder. Developmental Dynamics, 211: 131- 140.
Gorospe, S., R.N. Band and W. Kopachik. 1996. Molecular cloning of, and phylogenetic analysis of, an actin in Naegleria fowleri. FEMS Micro. Lett., 141: 233-237.
Wang, A., R.N. Band and W. Kopachik. 1995. Effects of trifluralin on growth and differentiation of the amoebo-flagellate Naegleria. FEMS Microbiology Letters, 127: 99-103.