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Laboratory of Molecular Genetics

Research Summary

The Laboratory of Molecular Genetics (LMG), led by Laboratory Chief John W. Drake, Ph.D. (, comprises nine research teams investigating fundamental mechanisms of genetic stability and instability. A major NIEHS focus is on long-delayed, environmentally-determined diseases initiated or enhanced by mutations. These include both heritable birth defects and cancer, which together afflict over a million people each year in this country alone. The decades that may elapse between exposure and disease render such genetically initiated conditions difficult to study. Thus, one of the best points of attack is the mutation process itself, including gene mutations, larger chromosomal mutations and genome mutations (losses or gains of entire chromosomes).

Illustrations for each of the groups within the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics: Chromosomes to DNA to Mitochondria to Flies to Rodents to Humans.
Chromosome Stability Group Drosophila Chromosome Structure Group Somatic Hypermutation Spontaneous Mutation & DNA Repair Group Environmental Genomics Group Mechanisms of Mutation Group DNA Replication Fidelity Mitochondrial DNA Replication Group

The LMG investigates the following topics:

  • Fundamental mechanisms of mutation, including the induction of DNA damage, the repair of such damage, ways to avoid mutations while replicating past unrepaired damage, and ways that damage does cause mutations
  • The generation of mutations by polymerase errors during DNA replication, even in the absence of damage
  • Fundamental mechanisms of DNA and chromosome replication, especially in the context of mutagenesis
  • Genomics, especially as it relates to mutagenesis and the impact of mutations on individuals and populations
  • The evolution and phylogenetics of spontaneous mutation
  • The relation between genetic variation in humans and their risks of disease following exposure to toxic agents

Scientific Support Staff

Ann Kersey
Administrative Assistant
Tel (919) 541-4845
Fax (919) 541-7593
Gezell Jones
Administrative Assistant
Tel (919) 541-3196
Fax (919) 541-7593

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Last Reviewed: January 02, 2009