About Student Research

Tessa Davis (2002–2006)

What are the functions of HMGB proteins within living cells?

A graduate of Caltech, Tessa Davis did her MS work in the Maher lab studying possible roles of high mobility group B (HMGB) proteins in chromatin structure and function. An important class of HMGB proteins binds DNA without sequence specificity. These molecules strongly bend DNA, changing its apparent physical properties by endowing the otherwise locally stiff double helix with "hinges." Tessa studied living yeast cells engineered to lack the yeast HMGB proteins Nhp6Ap and Nhp6Bp. These cells show some growth defects, and Tessa investigated approaches to creating yeast cell lines engineered to determine effects of HMGB proteins on the way genes are activated. Her work explored how assays might be created to determine if the ability of upstream activator proteins to activate genes from a distance might be dependent on HMGB protein function.