Molecular and Cellular Biology; Biotechnology.
In general, my laboratory has two primary research interests:
- understanding how gene expression is regulated
- studying the expression of genes on a genome wide basis.
We study gene regulation in a model system using a family of genes known as the "heat shock" (hs) or "stress-induced" genes. When cells are exposed to heat or other stress agents the highly conserved family of hs genes are induced. In eukaryotes, the heat shock genes are directly regulated by a protein called Heat Shock Factor (HSF). The objective of our research is to understand the molecular mechanisms of how HSF works. In particular, we want to know:
- how external stimuli (i.e. various stress agents) are recognized by the cell and how this information is transduced to HSF
- what happens to HSF to make it active
- how active HSF stimulates transcription
- how active HSF is inactivated.
Recent technological advances have allowed genome-wide analysis of gene expression. One of the most powerful of these technologies is DNA array based parallel genome analysis, commonly referred to as DNA microarrays. My lab has set up a national microarray facility at UTM called the Canadian Drosophila Microarray Centre, whose aim is to manufacture microarrays that represent most if not all of the 14,000 predicted genes in the fruit fly genome. Currently we are using these microarrays to find previously undiscovered genes that are induced or repressed by heat stress as well as other gene expression projects.
- Neal, S. J., Gibson, M. L., K.-C. So, A. K.-C. and Westwood. J. T. (2003). Construction of a cDNA-based microarray for Drosophila melanogaster: A comparison of gene transcription profiles from SL2 and Kc167 cells. Genome 46, 879-892.
- Chang, W. Y., Stevens, M. L., Paraiso, J. P. Winegarden, N. A. and Westwood, J. T. Visualization of nascent transcripts on Drosophila polytene chromosomes through BrUTP Incorporation. (2000). Biotechniques 29, 934-936.
- Mercier, P.A., Winegarden, N.A., and Westwood, J.T. Human heat shock factor 1 is predominantly a nuclear protein before and after heat stress. (1999). Journal of Cell Science 112, 2765-2774.
- Winegarden. N.A., Wong, K., Sopta, M., and Westwood, J.T. (1996). Sodium salicylate decreases intracellular ATP, induces both heat shock factor binding and chromosomal puffing, but does not induce hsp 70 gene transcription in Drosophila. J. Biol. Chem. 271: 26971-26980.
- Westwood, J.T., Clos, J., and Wu, C. (1991). Stress-induced oligomerization and chromosomal relocalization of heat shock factor. Nature 353, 822-827.