Dr. Robert Kingston is a biochemist who investigates the functional role of the nucleosome in the regulation of gene expression. The nucleosome is a basic organizational building block of chromatin. Kingston studies how nucleosomes can be moved around or held in place to effect gene regulation. He was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard College in 1976. He began working on regulatory mechanisms in bacteria in 1977 while doing his PhD with Dr. Michael Chamberlin at the University of California, Berkeley. He completed his PhD in 1981 and did postdoctoral work with Dr. Philip Sharp at MIT on mammalian transcriptional regulatory mechanisms. After establishing his laboratory as an Assistant Professor at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1985, he developed a program to explore the impact of chromatin structure on transcriptional regulation during development. He has been actively involved in graduate education and in administration and has served as head of the Harvard BBS graduate program (2004 to 2007), is Chair of the Molecular Biology Department at MGH (2005 to present) and served a term as Chair of the Executive Committee on Research at MGH (2012-2015). He organizes conferences and performs editorial roles related to chromatin function and epigenetics.

Research Interests

Robert Kingston's laboratory is focused on understanding how the nucleosome is involved in regulatory processes, especially those that occur during development. The nucleosome is a fundamental component of the packaging of chromatin. It has been co-opted to play a key direct role in regulation via the creation of accessible and inaccessible parts of the genome. Kingston's group studies the function of proteins encoded by the genetically defined Polycomb-Group (PcG) and trithorax-Group (trxG) families, two gene families that are necessary for maintenance of gene expression patterns during development. They characterize complexes formed by mammalian and fly proteins encoded by the PcG genes and determine how those complexes maintain repression of genes during development. They do similar work on trxG proteins and their role in activation of gene expression. Biochemical, structural, cell culture and genetic studies are used to determine how the nucleosome is held in place by compaction or is made accessible via ATP-dependent remodeling. This work examines what characteristics of the nucleosomes change when they are part of a regulated region and how targeting to those regions occurs. It also encompasses structural studies to determine the precise nature of contacts that are made between the complexes and the nucleosome as well as genetic studies to examine the impact of precise mutations in PcG and trxG genes on development.

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Primary Section

Section 21: Biochemistry

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology