Dr Elaine Dunleavy

Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry
Science Foundation Ireland President of Ireland Young Researcher Awardee

Research interests

  •  Centromere assembly in meiosis
  •  Centromere maintenance during spermiogenesis
  •  Germ line stem cell maintenance
  •  Epigenetics

Research overview

ED fly

Model system: the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster

Mitosis and meiosis are cell division cycles essential for the correct transmission of genetic material (chromosomes) from one generation to the next. Centromeres are key regions of eukaryotic chromosomes where the kinetochore assembles to ensure proper chromosome segregation during both mitosis and meiosis.              

Despite its essential function, centromere identity is not defined by DNA sequence, but is instead determined epigenetically by the presence of a centromere-specific histone variant CENP-A. In mitosis, errors in CENP-A assembly result in genome instability and aneuploidy, both hallmarks of cancer. In meiosis, the regulation of CENP-A assembly is recently emerging and appears to differ mechanistically from mitosis.

A key research question in the laboratory is to understand how CENP-A is targeted to and reproducibly incorporated at centromeres during meiosis.

We use male meiosis in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster as a model developmental system, combing genetics, cell biology and biochemical approaches. A major focus is to determine how CENP-A is maintained on mature sperm, despite the removal of most other histones from chromatin during spermatogenesis.

Another focus of the laboratory is to investigate which epigenetic factors influence stem cell self-renewal and/or differentiation in the germ line. We use germ line stem cell niche in Drosophila melanogaster females as model system, combining genetics with high resolution fixed and live imaging approaches.

To meet our group members, see our group pages

Selected publications

  • Collins CM, Malacrida B, Burke C, Kiely PA and Dunleavy EM (2018) ATP synthase F1 subunits -alpha and -Beta-like recruited to centromeres by CENP-A are required for male meiosis. Nature Communications. 13;9(1):2702.
  • Collins, CM, Dunleavy EM (2018) Imaging and quantitation of assembly dynamics of the centromeric histone H3 variant CENP-A in Drosophila melanogaster spermatocytes by immunofluorescence and fluorescence in-situ hybridisation (Immuno-FISH). Methods Mol Biol; 1832:327-337.
  • Dunleavy EM, Collins, CM (2017) Centromere dynamics in male and female germlines. Prog Mol Subcell Biol; 56:357-375.
  • Kwenda L, Collins CM, Dattoli AA and Dunleavy EM (2016) Nucleolar activity and CENP-C regulate CENP-A and CAL1 availability for centromere assembly in meiosis. Development. 143(8):1400-12.
  • Dunleavy EM, Zhang W, Karpen GH, Solo or Doppio: How Many CENP-As make a centromeric nucleosome? Nat Struct Mol Biol. 20 (6): 645-768 (2013)
  • Dunleavy EM, Beier NL, Gorgescu W, Tang J, Costes SV, Karpen GH, The cell cycle timing of centromeric chromatin assembly in Drosophila meiosis is distinct from mitosis yet requires CAL1 and CENP-C. PLoS Biol, 10(12): e1001460 (2012)