Sewanee: The University of the South

Alyssa R. Summers

Associate Professor of Biology

B.A., Lawrence University; Ph.D., Vanderbilt University

Alyssa Summers

Campus Office
Spencer Hall 153
(931) 598-1856


My lab focuses on understanding how transcriptional networks regulate cell fates, tissue development and cancer.

In particular, we study how a chromatin modifying enzyme, called Hdac3, can regulate gene expression patterns that impact cell function.

To do this we use several mouse model systems that knock-out Hdac3 in specific tissues. In this lab we evaluate the role of Hdac3 in two biological systems: the mammary gland and the thymus.


(Note: Projects that involve T-cells are in collaboration with Dr. Scott Hiebert at Vanderbilt University)

  1. Mammary Gland Development: This project aims to determine the biological role of Hdac3 in mammary gland development from birth through lactation and involution.
    Currently being worked on by: Carmen Rinio C’13
  2. Breast Cancer Initiation and Progression: This project utilizes a mouse model that is has both a knock-out of Hdac3 in the mammary gland and a transgene that induces tumor formation. Thus, we hope to elucidate the role that Hdac3 plays in tumor formation and progression.
    Currently being worked on by: Carmen Rinio C’13
  3. T-cell Negative Selection: This projects focuses of the development of T-cells, specifically analyzing the role that Hdac3 has in negative selection and the involvement of key negative selection markers, Nur77 and Hdac7.
  4. T-cell VDJ rearrangement and chromatin remodeling: This project involves examining the function of Hdac3 in chromatin remodeling and how this impacts VDJ recombination and TCR (T-cell Receptor) expression. (This project is closely related to project 5 but with a different focus).
  5. T-cell selection of TCR repertoire diversity: This project looks at how Hdac3 impacts TCR diversity. The more diverse or TCRs are the better off we are at fighting off new pathogen, thus we aim to elucidate the role of Hdac3 in immune function.


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

NIH T32 NRSA, Predoctoral Training Grant


Bhaskara S, Knutson SK, Jiang G, Chandrasekharan MB, Wilson AJ, Zheng s, Yenamandra A, Locke K, Yuan J, Bonine-Summers AR, Washington K, Zhou Z, Sun Z, Xia F, Khabele D, Hiebert SW. Hdac3 is essential for maintenance of chromatin structure and genome stability. Cancer Cell (2010) V18(5): 436-447.

Bonine-Summers AR, Brown KA, Aakre ME, Arteaga C, Pietenpol JA, Moses HL, Cheng N. Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor plays a significant role in mediating Hepatocyte Growth Factor biological responses in mammary epithelial cells. Cancer Biology and Therapy (2007) V6(4): 561-570.

Bonine-Summers AR, Law BL, Moses HL. “Transforming Growth Factor ß and Cancer” Cytokines in the Genesis and Treatment of Cancer. M. Caligiuri and M. Lotze. New Jersey: Humana Press Inc, 2007.

Sewanee: The University of the South