Karolin Luger is a biochemist and structural biologist recognized for her work on chromatin structure and function. She was a key player in efforts to elucidate the three-dimensional structure of the nucleosome, the basic repeating unit in chromatin. Her more recent work has focused on how nucleosomes are recognized and assembled, and how nucleosome dynamics affect gene expression. Luger was born in Austria, and graduated with a degree in Biology and Microbiology from the University of Innsbruck, Austria. She did her Ph.D. thesis in protein engineering and biophysics at the Biocenter in Basel, then moved to a postdoc at the ETH Zuerich in 1990. She started her independent career at Colorado State University in Fort Collins in 1999, where she continued her work on nucleosome and chromatin structure, and was recognized as a University Distinguished Professor in 2007. In 2015, she moved to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where she holds the Jennie Smoly endowed chair for Biochemistry. Luger is also an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. She is a fellow of the Biophysical Society, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Science, and of EMBO.

Research Interests

Research in the Luger Lab focuses on how nucleosomes and chromatin interfaces with the nuclear machineries that are responsible for gene expression, replication, and DNA repair. For example, her work has led to an understanding of how the herpes virus genome can 'hitchhike' on host chromosomes to escape destruction by the host defense mechanism, and how the posttranslational modifications of histones affect the structure and packing of nucleosomes. The group also investigates how nucleosomes are assembled and disassembled by a 'histone chaperones', and how DNA damage is signaled through the nucleus. This recent work impacts cancer therapies, as one of the proteins under investigation is a promising new drug target for certain cancers. The group has also suggested the potential evolutionary origin of nucleosomes, by visualizing the organization of chromatin in an ancient domain of life, the Archaea. The lab uses a wide range of techniques, such as X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, fluorescence spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy, analytical ultracentrifugation, molecular biology, and life-cell imaging.

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Primary Section

Section 29: Biophysics and Computational Biology

Secondary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry