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Prof Kevin Sullivan

Professor of Cell Biology
SFI Principal Investigator

Research interests

  • Centromere replication: epigenetic chromosome inheritance
  • Mitotic checkpoints, apoptosis and cancer chemotherapeutics
  • Quantitative microscopy and phenotypic analysis of cells

Research overview

Successful passage of cellular generation requires the replication of the chromosomes and their segregation into new daughter cells.

The centromere directs the segregation process during mitosis by assembling the kinetochore which both powers chromosome movement and regulates the progress of mitosis. Centromeres, however, are not directly specified by DNA sequence but rather through a unique chromatin configuration based on the centromere-specific histone H3 variant CENP-A.

How is a chromatin-based locus replicated with high fidelity in each cell cycle? We are studying the basis of chromatin-directed inheritance in human cells by dissecting the pathway for centromere assembly in human cells.

Efforts are focused on understanding the regulation of an ensemble of ~15 genes coding for CENP-A and a number of other constitutive CENPs, identifying which of those proteins are heritable in situ and when they are assembled.

Linking centromere function to the mechanism of assembly is thought to be a key to error proof epigenetic replication of this locus.

Biochemical analysis of centromere replication intermediates and investigation of how mitotic events, particularly checkpoint activities, influence the assembly pathway are key goals of the laboratory.

Selected publications

  • Prendergast L, van Vuuren C, Kaczmarczyk A, Doering V, Hellwig D, Quinn N, Hoischen C, Diekmann S, Sullivan KF, Premitotic assembly of human CENPs -T and -W switches centromeric chromatin to a mitotic state. PLoS Biol 9: e1001082 (2011)
  • Monier K, Mouradian S, Sullivan KF, DNA methylation promotes Aurora-B-driven phosphorylation of histone H3 in chromosomal subdomains. J Cell Sci 120: 101-114 (2007)
  • Cleveland DW, Mao Y, Sullivan KF, Centromeres and kinetochores: from epigenetics to mitotic checkpoint signaling. Cell 112: 407-421 (2003)