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David K. Cortez, Ph.D.

  • Co-Leader, Genome Maintenance Research Program
  • Ingram Professor of Cancer Research
  • Professor of Biochemistry

Phone

615-322-8547

Email

David.Cortez@Vanderbilt.edu
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
613 Light Hall
Nashville, TN 37232-0146

David K. Cortez, Ph.D.

  • Co-Leader, Genome Maintenance Research Program
  • Ingram Professor of Cancer Research
  • Professor of Biochemistry

615-322-8547

David.Cortez@Vanderbilt.edu

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
613 Light Hall
Nashville, TN 37232-0146

Departments/Affiliations

Profile

Education

Research Emphasis

Genome maintenance by the DNA damage response, cell cycle, DNA replication, DNA repair, cancer

Research Description

Billions of base pairs of DNA must be replicated trillions of times during a human lifetime. Adding to the difficulty, thousands of DNA lesions happen in each cell of our body every day. Furthermore, replication is challenged by difficult to replicate sequences and conflicts with transcription. DNA damage response mechanisms act to repair the damaged DNA, signal checkpoint activation, ensure completion of DNA replication, and maintain genome stability. Defects in these mechanisms can cause developmental abnormalities, premature aging, and cancer.

The Cortez lab is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms that maintain genome integrity and promote the complete and accurate replication of the genome.

Current projects in the lab include:

1. Identification of new replication stress response proteins using whole genome RNAi screens and proteomics
2. Characterization of replication fork remodeling enzymes including SMARCAL1
3. Analysis of DNA damage signaling pathways controlled by the ATR kinase
4. Development of cancer therapeutic approaches targeting the DNA damage response

We use a multi-disciplinary approach including genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, proteomics, and structural biology. The lab is part of the Genome Maintenance Program within the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Center in Molecular Toxicology, Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, and Department of Biochemistry.

SIGNIFICANCE
Since DNA damage is continuously produced as a byproduct of normal cell metabolism and DNA replication, any deficiency in responding to and repairing this damage can cause chromosomal alterations that may lead to cancer, developmental abnormalities, and other diseases. In addition many cancer therapies including radiation therapy and most chemotherapeutic strategies cause DNA damage. Therefore, manipulating the DNA damage response may be one means of improving the outcomes of these therapies. Discovering the mechanisms by which cells respond to DNA damage and other types of replication stress will provide insights into the etiology of diseases like cancer as well as identify opportunities for therapeutic intervention.


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Publications

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