Carnegie Mellon University

Professor Kris N. Dahl wins NSF CAREER Award

Professor Kris N. Dahl has been awarded the NSF CAREER Award for her research on "Genome Regulation and Nuclear Rheology" This is a prestigious five-year grant that accelerates the progress of young faculty in their professions.

The subject of the research will be the origin of gene expression. The sequencing of the human genome was a major achievement, but poor understanding of the mechanisms controlling gene expression limits the usefulness of this information. The hypothesis is that exposure to mechanical force causes reorganization of the nucleus that helps regulate gene expression. The role of force in regulating gene expression is an emerging and uniquely multi-disciplinary area of study. Mechanical force is important both for organism development and for maintenance of cells and tissues. Specifically, shear stress on endothelial cells alters gene expression and changes cell behavior. There are many known mechanosensors in cells, but short-lived signaling events do not explain both the long-time responses and permanent changes of cells. The DNA inside the nucleus, which is organized into the genome, has unique mechanical properties capable of responding proportionally to both the magnitude and duration of applied stress. Nuclear deformation might be important since placement of genes within the nucleus is correlated with their expression. The aim, therefore, is to establish a link between mechanical force such as shear stress and gene expression.