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Upcoming events hosted by or involving Genetics Otago will be listed here. Please check back regularly for updates. A calendar of events that may be of interest to our members can be found at the bottom of this page and in the sidebar of other pages on this site, please note that this includes events hosted outside of Genetics Otago.

IPL – Professor Julia Horsfield


Unfortunately, this lecture has been postponed due to the level 2 restrictions currently in place. Watch this space for updates once we reach level 1.

The circle of life: connecting cell division with cell fate

Julia’s current research originates from her fascination with how cells ‘decide’ what they are going to be in a growing, developing embryo. At the University of Otago, Julia started working on Cohesin, a protein that connects cell division with cell fate decisions. Cohesin controls chromosome segregation during cell division, and it also organises the DNA of non-dividing cells to select genes for expression. Using zebrafish, Julia’s group determined how mutation of Cohesin contributes to human developmental disorders, the “Cohesinopathies”.

Her group also studies how genes first come to be switched on in the embryo by Cohesin-mediated chromatin structure. She was the first to show that mutations in Cohesin may be linked with leukaemia; a finding later confirmed by cancer genome sequencing projects. Her recent work focuses on the mechanism of Cohesin’s contribution to leukaemia, including the sensitivity of Cohesin-mutant cancers to specific drugs.

This lecture will be followed by light refreshments, tea, coffee & juice.

Date: TBC
Time: TBC
Location: Archway 1 Lecture Theatre, Union St East. This event will also be live-streamed, from 5:25pm Tuesday 8 September 2020, here. Please note: Live streaming does not work with Internet Explorer.

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Microbiology Seminar – Prof Julia Horsfield @ Room 208, 2nd Floor Microbiology Building
Oct 5 @ 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Professor Julia Horsfield

Department of Pathology, University of Otago

‘Cohesin mutations are synthetic lethal with stimulation of WNT signaling’

 Mutations in genes encoding subunits of the cohesin complex are common in several cancers, but may also expose druggable vulnerabilities.  We generated isogenic MCF10A cell lines with deletion mutations of genes encoding cohesin subunits SMC3, RAD21 and STAG2 and screened for synthetic lethality with 3,009 FDA-approved compounds.  The screen identified several compounds that interfere with transcription, DNA damage repair and the cell cycle. Unexpectedly, one of the top ‘hits’ was a GSK3 inhibitor, an agonist of Wnt signaling. We show that sensitivity to GSK3 inhibition is likely due to stabilisation of b-catenin in cohesin mutant cells, and that Wnt-responsive gene expression is highly sensitized in STAG2-mutant CMK leukemia cells. Moreover, Wnt activity is enhanced in zebrafish mutant for cohesin subunit rad21. Our results suggest that cohesin mutations could progress oncogenesis by enhancing Wnt signaling, and that targeting the Wnt pathway may represent a novel therapeutic strategy for cohesin mutant cancers.