Faculty & Staff

Elise A. Kikis

Assistant Professor of Biology
B.A. Cornell University; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology

eakikis@sewanee.edu

Lab Website 

RESEARCH & SCHOLARSHIP

Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the underlying toxicity of human polyglutamine-containing proteins that are associated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases. The most well-studied of the polyglutamine diseases is Huntington’s Disease, whose genetic determinant is an expansion of a CAG triplet repeat in the gene encoding the Huntingtin protein.

To study how and why the resultant mutant proteins are toxic to cells, we express the human disease proteins in different tissues of the invertebrate model system, C. elegans.  The ease of generating transgenic lines, the availability of mutant strains, and the relatively simple body plan of C. elegans makes it an especially useful tool to address our research questions.

My students and I approach our research questions using the following techniques:
- Fluorescence microscopy
- Classical genetics and RNAi-mediated gene knockdown
- Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR)
- Fluorescent reporters to monitor gene expression
- Immunoblot analysis of protein accumulation
- Biochemical and biophysical approaches to study protein solubility
- Motility assays to measure toxicity

FELLOWSHIPS, HONORS, & GRANTS

Kennedy Endowed Faculty Fellowship 

McCrickard Faculty Development Grant 
 

NIH F32 National Research Service Award (NRSA), Postdoctoral Fellowship

Kennedy’s Disease Association Research Grant

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

*Christie, N., *Lee, A., Gray, A., Fay, H., Kikis, E.A. (2014) Novel Polyglutamine Model Uncouples Proteotoxicity from Aging. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96835 *authors contributed equally

Gidalevitz, T., Kikis, E.A., Morimoto, R.I. (2010) A cellular perspective on conformational disease: the role of genetic background and proteostasis networks Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 20(1): 23-32.

Kikis, E.A., Gidalevitz, T., Morimoto, R.I. (2010) Protein homeostasis in models of aging and age-related conformational disease Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 694, 138-159.
 

Kikis, EA., Ben-Zvi, A., Morimoto, RI. “C. elegans as a Model System to Study the Biology of Protein Aggregation and Toxicity.” Protein Misfolding Diseases: Current and Emerging Principles and Therapies. Ed. Dobson, CM., Kelly, JW., and Ramirez-Alvarado, M. (2010).