Associate Professor, The Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics University of Alabama at Birmingham
Histone Ubiquitination, Transcription, and the Cancer Connection
Hengbin Wang (b.1969) is an Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. Wang received his B.S. degree from Hebei Normal University (1991) and Ph.D. degree from China Agricultural University (1997) in China. He began his first postdoctoral training in Kyushu University, Japan. Then he moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, joining Yi Zhang’s laboratory to study the roles of histone modifications in regulating chromatin functions. He joined UAB in 2004.
In eukaryotic cells, genomic DNA is packaged into a chromatin structure by association with histone and non-histone proteins. Chromatin provides a physical barrier for protein factors such as transcription machinery to gain access to the DNA template. Posttranslational modification of histones plays important roles in regulating chromatin structure and controlling the accessibility of chromatin template. In a tour de force biochemical approach, we have identified a number of enzymes that methylate and ubiquitinate histones. We have characterized the functions of these histone modifying enzymes in transcription regulation, DNA damage response, pre-mRNA splicing, and embryonic development.
Current research focuses on three areas: 1) to determine the function of the histone H2A deubiquitinase USP16 in normal development and pathogenesis, particularly the involvement of this enzyme in Down syndrome phenotype; 2) to understand the role of histone H2B deubiquitinase USP49 in transcription start site selection and tumorigenesis; 3) to determine how H2A and H2B ubiquitination achieve their regulation at molecular levels. We have recently identified a novel H2A ubiquitination binding protein and further characterization may lead to the identification of a family of protein readers for histones ubiquitinated at other sites.
Since epigenetic mechanisms play essential roles in cell differentiation, stem cell identity, tumorigenesis, genomic imprinting, our study will have a major impact on our understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of normal development and on elaborating strategies targeting this epigenetic systemfor therapeutic benefit.