James T. Kadonaga is a biochemist and molecular biologist. He studies gene expression in animals, and his research has focused primarily upon transcription by RNA polymerase II and chromatin dynamics. This work includes the purification and analysis of promoter- and enhancer-binding factors, early insights into the role of chromatin structure in transcriptional regulation, the elucidation of the enzymatic machinery that assembles chromatin, and the illumination of the function of diverse core promoter elements in gene regulation. Kadonaga was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina and grew up in the East Side of San Jose, California. He received the S.B. degree in chemistry in 1980 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in chemistry in 1982 and 1984 from Harvard University. After postdoctoral research in biochemistry at University of California, Berkeley (1984-88), he joined the faculty of University of California, San Diego, where he served as the Chair of the Department (formerly Section) of Molecular Biology from 2003-2007 and is presently Distinguished Professor of Molecular Biology and Amylin Chair in the Life Sciences. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Interests

The Kadonaga laboratory is interested in the mechanisms of gene regulation in animals. Their research has mainly focused on the factors and DNA elements that mediate transcription by RNA polymerase II in the context of the chromatin template. Early work revealed that promoter- and enhancer-binding factors function to counteract chromatin-mediated transcription repression. Further studies showed that a chromatin template is required for and is an integral component of the proper regulation of transcription by the sequence-specific activators. In a parallel project, they purified and reconstituted a completely defined ATP-dependent enzyme-catalyzed system for the assembly of chromatin. In this work, they discovered the ACF and ASF1 chromatin assembly factors as well as the prenucleosome as a precursor to the nucleosome. They also discovered NDF, a factor that destabilizes nucleosomes and stimulates transcriptional elongation, as well as annealing helicases, which are ATP-driven enzymes that catalyze the rewinding of complementary DNA strands. Lastly, they have been studying the RNA polymerase II core promoter - the site of convergence of the signals leading to transcription initiation. This research includes the identification of new core promoter elements and the discovery of their roles in the regulation of gene expression and biological networks.

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Primary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology