Ben E. Black, Ph.D.

faculty photo
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.
Permanent link
> Perelman School of Medicine   > Faculty   > Details

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:
Praveen Allu - Postdoctoral Researcher
Ramya Billur - Postdoctoral Researcher
Nikaela Bryan - Ph.D. Student, BMB
Arunika Das - Postdoctoral Researcher (co-mentored by Mike Lampson)
Jennine Dawicki-McKenna - Senior Research Investigator
Craig Gambogi - Ph.D. Student, BMB
Zain Hannan, Research Specialist
Levani Zandarashvili - Postdoctoral Researcher

Selected Publications

Iwata-Otsubo, A., Dawicki-McKenna, J.M., Akera, T., Falk, S.J., Chmatal, L., Yang, K., Sullivan, B.A., Schultz, R.M., Lampson, M.A., Black, B.E.: Expanded satellite repeats amplify a discrete CENP-A nucleosome assembly site on chromosomes that drive in female meiosis. Current Biology 27: 2365-2373, 2017 Notes: Iwata-Otsubo and Dawicki-McKenna (Black Lab) are co-first authors. Lampson and Black are co-corresponding authors.

Guo, L.Y., Allu, P.K., Zandarashvili, L., McKinley, K.L., Sekulic, N., Dawicki-McKenna, J.M., Fachinetti, D., Logsdon, G.A., Jamiolkowski, R., Cleveland, D.W., Cheeseman, I.M., Black, B.E.: Centromeres are maintained by fastening CENP-A to DNA and directing an arginine anchor-dependent nucleosome transition. Nature Communications 8: 15775, 2017.

Smoak, E.M., Stein, P., Schultz, R.M., Lampson, M.A., Black, B.E.: Long-term retention of CENP-A nucleosomes in mammalian oocytes underpins transgenerational inheritance of centromere identity. Current Biology 26: 1110-1116, 2016 Notes: Lampson and Black are co-corresponding authors; Highlighted by Toth and Jessberger in the same issue.

Falk, S.J., Lee, J., Sekulic, N., Sennett, M.A., Lee, T.-H., Black, B.E.: CENP-C directs a structural transition of CENP-A nucleosomes mainly through sliding of DNA gyres. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 23: 204-208, 2016 Notes: T.-H. Lee and Black are co-corresponding authors. Falk (Black Lab) and J. Lee are co-first authors.

Dawicki-McKenna, J.M., Langelier, M.F., DeNizio, J.E., Riccio, A.A., Cao, C.D., Karch, K.R., McCauley, M., Steffen, J.D., Black, B.E., Pascal, J.M.: PARP-1 activation requires local unfolding of an autoinhibitory domain. Molecular Cell 60: 755-768, 2015 Notes: Black and Pascal are co-corresponding authors. Dawicki-McKenna (Black lab) and Langelier are co-first authors. Featured on the journal cover.

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 Notes: Falk (Black Lab), Guo (Black Lab), Sekulic (Black Lab), and Smoak (Black/Lampson Labs) are co-first authors.

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 Notes: Hasson, Panchenko (Black Lab), and Salimian (Black Lab) are co-first authors.

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 Notes: Lampson and Black are co-corresponding authors.

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

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.

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Last updated: 10/21/2018
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