Dr. Andrew K. Vershon is a Principal Investigator at Waksman Institute, a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, and Director of the Waksman Student Scholars Program, at Rutgers University.


Research Summary A major focus of his research is on the regulation of transcription in the yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Specifically, he is investigating how different regulatory proteins interact to control gene expression and how these interactions influence the regulatory activity of the proteins. As Professor, Vershon is one of the most enthusiastic molecular biologists, and loves involving undergraduates in research . During the summer, Dr. Vershon works with high school teachers to encourage their students to participate in genuine molecular biology research in the Waksman Summer Scholars Institute program.

Recent Publications

Gelfand, B, Mead J, Bruning A, Apostolopoulos N, Tadigotla V, Nagaraj V, Sengupta AM, Vershon AK.  2011.  Regulated Antisense Transcription Controls Expression of Cell-type-specific Genes in Yeast. Mol Cell Biol. 31:1701-1709. Abstract
Transcriptome profiling studies have recently uncovered a large number of noncoding RNA transcripts (ncRNAs) in eukaryotic organisms, and there is growing interest in their role in the cell. For example, in haploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae cells, the expression of an overlapping antisense ncRNA, referred to here as RME2 (Regulator of Meiosis 2), prevents IME4 expression. In diploid cells, the a1-α2 complex represses the transcription of RME2, allowing IME4 to be induced during meiosis. In this study we show that antisense transcription across the IME4 promoter region does not block transcription factors from binding and is not required for repression. Mutational analyses found that sequences within the IME4 open reading frame (ORF) are required for the repression mediated by RME2 transcription. These results support a model where transcription of RME2 blocks the elongation of the full-length IME4 transcript but not its initiation. We have found that another antisense transcript, called RME3, represses ZIP2 in a cell-type-specific manner. These results suggest that regulated antisense transcription may be a widespread mechanism for the control of gene expression and may account for the roles of some of the previously uncharacterized ncRNAs in yeast.
Mead, J, McCord R, Youngster L, Sharma M, Gartenberg MR, Vershon AK.  2007.  Swapping the Gene-specific and Regional Silencing Specificities of the Hst1 and Sir2 Histone Deacetylases. Mol Cell Biol. 27:2466-2475. Abstract
Sir2 and Hst1 are NAD(+)-dependent histone deacetylases of budding yeast that are related by strong sequence similarity. Nevertheless, the two proteins promote two mechanistically distinct forms of gene repression. Hst1 interacts with Rfm1 and Sum1 to repress the transcription of specific middle-sporulation genes. Sir2 interacts with Sir3 and Sir4 to silence genes contained within the silent-mating-type loci and telomere chromosomal regions. To identify the determinants of gene-specific versus regional repression, we created a series of Hst1::Sir2 hybrids. Our analysis yielded two dual-specificity chimeras that were able to perform both regional and gene-specific repression. Regional silencing by the chimeras required Sir3 and Sir4, whereas gene-specific repression required Rfm1 and Sum1. Our findings demonstrate that the nonconserved N-terminal region and two amino acids within the enzymatic core domain account for cofactor specificity and proper targeting of these proteins. These results suggest that the differences in the silencing and repression functions of Sir2 and Hst1 may not be due to differences in enzymatic activities of the proteins but rather may be the result of distinct cofactor specificities.
Abraham, DS, Vershon AK.  2005.  N-terminal arm of Mcm1 is Required for Transcription of a Subset of Genes Involved in Maintenance of the cell wall. Eukaryot Cell. 4:1808-1819. Abstract
The yeast Mcm1 protein is a member of the MADS box family of transcription factors that interacts with several cofactors to differentially regulate genes involved in cell-type determination, mating, cell cycle control and arginine metabolism. Residues 18 to 96 of the protein, which form the core DNA-binding domain of Mcm1, are sufficient to carry out many Mcm1-dependent functions. However, deletion of residues 2 to 17, which form the nonessential N-terminal (NT) arm, confers a salt-sensitive phenotype, suggesting that the NT arm is required for the activation of salt response genes. We used a strategy that combined information from the mutational analysis of the Mcm1-binding site with microarray expression data under salt stress conditions to identify a new subset of Mcm1-regulated genes. Northern blot analysis showed that the transcript levels of several genes encoding associated with the cell wall, especially YGP1, decrease significantly upon deletion of the Mcm1 NT arm. Deletion of the Mcm1 NT arm results in a calcofluor white-sensitive phenotype, which is often associated with defects in transcription of cell wall genes. In addition, the deletion makes cells sensitive to CaCl2 and alkaline pH. We found that the defect caused by removal of the NT arm is not due to changes in Mcm1 protein level, stability, DNA-binding affinity, or DNA bending. This suggests that residues 2 to 17 of Mcm1 may be involved in recruiting a cofactor to the promoters of these genes to activate transcription.
Carr, EA, Mead J, Vershon AK.  2004.  Alpha1-induced DNa Bending is Required for Transcriptional Activation by the Mcm1-alpha1 Complex. Nucleic Acids Res. 32:2298-2305. Abstract
The yeast Mcm1 protein is a founding member of the MADS-box family of transcription factors that is involved in the regulation of diverse sets of genes through interactions with distinct cofactor proteins. Mcm1 interacts with the Matalpha1 protein to activate the expression of the alpha-cell type-specific genes. To understand the requirement of the cofactor alpha1 for Mcm1-alpha1-dependent transcriptional activation we analyzed the recruitment of Mcm1 to the promoters of alpha-specific genes in vivo and found that Mcm1 is able to bind to the promoters of alpha-specific genes in the absence of alpha1. This suggests the function of alpha1 is more complex than simply recruiting Mcm1. Several MADS-box transcription factors, including Mcm1, induce DNA bending and there is evidence the proper bend may be required for transcriptional activation. We analyzed Mcm1-dependent bending of a Mcm1-alpha1 binding site in the presence and absence of alpha1 and found that Mcm1 alone shows a reduced DNA-bend at this site compared with other Mcm1 binding sites. However, the addition of alpha1 markedly increases the DNA-bend and we present evidence this bend is required for full transcriptional activation. These results support a model in which proper DNA-bending by the Mcm1-alpha1 complex is required for transcriptional activation.