Ben E. Black, Ph.D.

faculty photo
Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Biophysics
Department: Biochemistry and Biophysics

Contact information
913A Stellar-Chance Laboratories
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 215-898-5039
Fax: 215-573-7058
B.A. (Biology)
Carleton College, 1997.
PhD (Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics)
University of Virginia, 2002.
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Description of Research Expertise

Description of Research:
Dr. Black's laboratory is interested in how particular proteins guard the genome with emphasis on processes for detecting DNA damage and directing accurate chromosome segregation at mitosis. For the latter, the chromosomal element—the centromere—that directs this process is not defined by a particular DNA sequence. Rather, the location of the centromere is dictated by an epigenetic mark generated by one or more resident proteins. These centromeric proteins interact directly with the DNA to create a specialized chromatin compartment that is distinct from any other part of the chromosome. By taking biophysical, biochemical, and cell biological approaches, we are defining the composition and physical characteristics of the protein and protein/DNA complexes that epigenetically mark the location of the centromere on the chromosome. This work involves building centromeric chromatin from its component parts for analysis of its physical characteristics, developing biochemical assays to reconstitute steps in the process of establishing and maintaining the epigenetic mark, exploiting the power of next generation genomic and epigenomic sequencing approaches, and using animal and cell-based approaches to study the behavior of proteins involved in centromere inheritance and other essential aspects related to chromosome segregation at cell division.

Lab personnel:
Jennine Dawicki-McKenna - Postdoctoral Researcher
Samantha Falk - Ph.D. Student, CAMB
Morgan Gerace - Research Specialist
Lucie Guo - M.D./Ph.D. Student, BMB
Krystal Haislop - Ph.D. Rotation Student, BMB
Ricardo Linares - M.D./Ph.D. Rotation Student, CAMB
Glennis Logsdon - Ph.D. Student, BMB
Nikolina Sekulic - Postdoctoral Researcher
Evan Selzer - Undergraduate Researcher
Evan Smoak - Ph.D. Student, BMB (co-mentored with Dr. Michael Lampson)

Selected Publications

Falk, S.J., Guo, L.Y., Sekulic, N., Smoak, E.M., Mani, T., Logsdon, G.A., Gupta, K., Jansen, L.E.T., Van Duyne, G.D., Vinogradov, S.A., Lampson, M.A., Black, B.E.: CENP-C reshapes and stabilizes CENP-A nucleosomes at the centromere. Science 348: 699-703, 2015.

Logsdon, G.A., Barrey, E.J., Bassett, E.A., DeNizio, J.E., Guo, L.Y., Panchenko, T., Dawicki-McKenna, J.M., Heun, P., Black, B.E.: Both tails and the centromere targeting domain of CENP-A are required for centromere establishment. Journal of Cell Biology 208: 521-531, 2015.

DeNizio, J.E., Elsässer, S.J., Black, B.E.: DAXX co-folds with H3.3/H4 using high local stability conferred by the H3.3 variant recognition residues. Nucleic Acids Research 42: 4318-4331, 2014.

Hasson, D., Panchenko, T., Salimian, K.J., Salman, M.U., Sekulic, N., Alonso, A., Warburton, P.E., Black, B.E.: The octamer is the major form of CENP-A nucleosomes at human centromeres. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 20: 687-695, 2013.

Bassett, E.A., DeNizio, J., Barnhart-Dailey, M.C., Panchenko, T., Sekulic, N., Rogers, D.J., Foltz, D.R., Black, B.E.: HJURP uses distinct CENP-A surfaces to recognize and to stabilize CENP-A/histone H4 for centromere assembly. Developmental Cell 22: 749-762, 2012.

Panchenko, T., Sorensen, T.C., Woodcock, C.L., Kan, Z.Y., Wood, S., Resch, M.G., Luger, K., Englander, S.W., Hansen, J.C., Black, B.E.: Replacement of histone H3 with CENP-A directs global nucleosome array condensation and loosening of nucleosome superhelical termini. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108: 16588-16593, October 2011.

Salimian, K.J., Ballister, E.R., Smoak, E.M., Wood, S., Panchenko, T., Lampson, M.A., Black, B.E.: Feedback control in sensing chromosome biorientation by the Aurora B kinase. Current Biology 21: 1158-1165, July 2011.

Black, B.E., Cleveland, D.W.: Epigenetic centromere propagation and the nature of CENP-A nucleosomes. Cell 144: 471-479, Feb 2011.

Sekulic, N., Bassett, E.A., Rogers, D.J., Black, B.E.: The structure of (CENP-A/H4)(2) reveals physical features that mark centromeres. Nature 467: 347-351, September 2010.

Foltz, D.R., Jansen, L.E.T., Bailey, A.O., Yates III, J.R., Bassett, E.A., Wood, S., Black, B.E., Cleveland, D.W.: Centromere-specific assembly of CENP-A nucleosomes is mediated by HJURP. Cell 137: 472-484, May 2009.

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Last updated: 08/20/2015
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