Karen Adelman

Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School.

Karen Adelman is a Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. She is also a Member of the Ludwig Center at Harvard Medical School, the Dana-Farber/ Harvard Cancer Center and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute.

The Adelman lab pioneered genomic studies of RNA polymerase II (Pol II) transcription that fundamentally altered our views of gene regulation. In 2007, her group demonstrated that transcriptional pausing and regulated release of Pol II into productive RNA synthesis are central regulatory steps in metazoan gene expression. The lab then uncovered an unexpected, positive role for Pol II pausing in gene expression, revealing that pausing near promoters prevents local nucleosome assembly. Furthermore, the open chromatin environment maintained by divergent mammalian promoters was shown to enable rapid transcription factor binding and robust regulation of gene activity in response to external signals. Recently her work has shown the importance of pause regulation at enhancers, highlighting the similarities of elongation control at coding and non-coding RNA loci. This work led her lab to discover the central role of the Integrator termination complex in controlling the turnover of paused Pol II and thus in governing gene activity. Ongoing work probes the interplay between transcription, RNA processing and termination machineries to elucidate the determinants of Pol II processivity and mature mRNA formation.

Karen carried out her Ph.D. in France, working at the Institut Pasteur. She pursued postdoctoral research at Cornell University, before establishing her own laboratory at the NIH in 2005. Her group moved to Harvard Medical School in the summer of 2016. At Harvard, Dr. Adelman is an active member of the Graduate Program in Biology and Biomedical Sciences, teaching, mentoring, and serving as the Director of Admissions. She also founded and directs the Nascent Transcriptomics Core facility and sits on the Steering Committee for the HMS Epigenetics and Gene Dynamics Initiative.

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