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Lorraine Pillus


A gene's chromosomal position and local chromatin structure can have profound consequences for its expression. We are interested in all aspects of these chromosomal and chromatin effects because they underlie epigenetic processes that are critical for normal growth and development. We are particularly focused on the form of chromatin regulation known as transcriptional silencing and study its effects on yeast and human genes.

Chromatin is controlled by post-translational modification of its core subunits, the histones, and other transcriptional factors. The enzymes catalyzing these modifications include acetyltransferases, (HATs), deacetylases (HDACs), methyltransferases (MTs), kinases, and others. The enzymes work together to promote dynamic patterns of modification that help to specify epigenetic processes. We study several classes of the chromatin modifying enzymes to understand the range of their in vivo functions, including mechanisms of their activity, genomic targeting, and interaction with transcriptional and DNA repair complexes. Our experimental approaches include genetic, genomic and biochemical strategies to understand the MYST family HATs, the SIR2 family HDACs, and several classes of evolutionarily conserved MTs.


  • Scott, E.M. and Pilllus, L. (2010) Homocitrate synthase connects amino acid metabolism to chromatin functions through Esal and DNA damage.Genes & Development 24:1903-1913 PMID: 20810648.
  • Bulfer, S.L., Scott, E.M., Pillus, L. and Trievel, R.C. (2010) Structural basis for feedback inhibition of homocitrate synthase by L-lysine. Journal of Biological Chemistry 285:10466-10453 PMID: 20089861.
  • Bulfer SL, Scott EM, Couture JF, Pillus L, Trievel RC. (2009) Crystal structure and functional analysis of homocitrate synthase, an essential enzyme in lysine buisynthesis. Journal of Biological Chemistry284:35769-35780 PMID: 19776021.
  • Jacobson, S. and Pillus, L. (2009) The SAGA subunit Ada2 functions in transcriptional silencing. Molecular and Cellular Biology29:6033-6045.
  • Chang, C.S. and Pillus, L. (2009) Collaboration Between the Essential Esa1 acetyltransferase and the Rpd3 Deacetylase is Mediated by H4K12 Histone Acetylation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 183:149-160 PMID: 19596907.
  • Koch, M.R. and Pillus, L. (2009) The Gas1 Glucanosyltransferase functions in transcriptional silencing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106:11224-11229. PMID: 19541632.
  • Mak, H.C., Pillus, L., and Ideker, T. (2009) Dynamic reprogramming of transcription factors to and from the subtelomere. Genome Research 9:1014-25 PMID: 19372386.
  • Koch, M.R. and Pillus, L. (2009) Silent chromatin formation and regulation in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Handbook of Cell Signaling, 2nd Edition, Oxford: Academic Press eds., R. Bradshaw and E. Dennis, pp. 2427-2436.
  • Kennedy, E.J., Ghosh G., and Pillus, L. (2008) Identification of functionally distinct regions that mediate biological activity of the Protein Kinase A homolog TPK2. Journal of Biological Chemistry 283:1084-1093 PMID: 17971450.
  • Lafon A, Chang CS, Scott EM, Jacobson SJ, and Pillus L. (2007) MYST opportunities for growth control: yeast genes illuminate human cancer gene functions. Oncogene. 26:5373-5384. PMID: 17694079.
  • Darst, R.P., Garcia, S.N., Krick, M., and Pillus, L. (2008) Slx5p promotes transcriptional silencing and is required for robust growth in the absence of Sir2p. Molec. Cell. Biol. 28:1361-1372 PMID: 18086879.
  • Pillus L (2008) MYSTs Mark Chromatin for Chromosomal Functions. Curr. Opin. Cell Biology 20:326-333 PMID: 18511253.


Lorraine Pillus was an undergraduate at Brown University, then carried out graduate studies with Frank Solomon in the Cancer Center at MIT. Shedid postdoctoral research with Jasper Rine at the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow of the Life Sciences Research Foundation. Prof. Pillus established her laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder, then moved to UCSD in 1998. She has been named a Pew Scholar and a National Science Foundation New Young Investigator andhas received teaching excellence awards from the Mortar Board Honor Society and the Associated Studentsof the Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences.