St John's College Oxford
Dr Lars Jansen

Dr Lars Jansen

Science Research Fellow in Biochemistry

Subjects

Biography

Lars Jansen, a native of the Netherlands, received his PhD in Molecular Genetics in 2002 from Leiden University. He then moved to the Ludwig Institute, San Diego, California to receive training in human cell biology. In 2008 he started his independent research career at the Gulbenkian Institute for Science in Lisbon. After 10 years in Portugal he joined the department of Biochemistry in Oxford in 2018 as a Wellcome Senior Research Fellow. His lab focuses on understanding chromatin structure and function in human cell systems.

Background

I was trained as a geneticist by geneticists with a focus on how genes, made of DNA, replicate themselves and are repaired when damaged. The realization that inheritance in a living organism is a much more fluid concept that goes beyond the basic linear code of DNA has fascinated me since early on as a doctoral student. I sought out experts, in my case in California, that taught me specular examples of so-called epigenetic inheritance. One of them is the human centromere, a chromosomal locus responsible for moving chromosomes into daughter cells during cell division. This protein structure is inherited almost like a gene without being made of DNA. That is a remarkable piece of biology and my lab is studying this and other examples of self-duplicating structures in cells.

I started out my career as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) Young Investigator program. Throughout my career, I have received major funding awards from the European Research Council (ERC) and the Wellcome Trust. 

Teaching

While I´m in Oxford primarily as a research fellow, I´m very happily involved in various teaching modules that include gene and chromosome function for Part II biochemistry students as well as building up a course on quantitative fluorescent methods in cell biology. I also occasionally tutor on the cell cycle, chromosome structure, DNA replication and repair, mitosis, chromatin and epigenetics.

Research Interests

My research goals revolve around “inheritance”. How are cellular components duplicated and how are they accurately passed on from one cell division to the next, or from one generation to the next? Genes on chromosomes are a spectacular example of a structure that is copied and split between cells in a highly accurate manner. We are interested in how this works so well and why it fails in e.g. cancer cells. In addition, while inheritance typically deals with genes in the form of DNA (i.e. genetic inheritance), other cellular structures made e.g. of proteins can sometimes also be inherited and passed on in ways that are not directly dependent on genes. Such non-genetic or epigenetic forms of inheritance are intriguing and poorly understood, yet crucial to the understanding of how cells differentiate into different tissues and how individuals develop.

Selected publications

Dragan Stajic, Lília Perfeito and Lars E.T. Jansen (2019) Epigenetic gene silencing alters the mechanisms and rate of evolutionary adaptation. Nature Ecology & Evolution, 3: 491–8

Ana Stankovic, Lucie Y. Guo, João F. Mata, Dani L. Bodor, Xing-Jun Cao, Aaron O. Bailey, Jeffrey Shabanowitz, Donald F. Hunt, Benjamin A. Garcia, Ben E. Black and Lars E.T. Jansen (2017) A dual inhibitory mechanism sufficient to maintain cell cycle restricted CENP-A assembly. Molecular Cell, 65: 231–246

Aimee M. Deaton, Mariluz Gomez-Rodriguez, Jakub Mieczkowski, Michael Y. Tolstorukov, Sharmistha Kundu, Ruslan I. Sadreyev, Lars E.T. Jansen and Robert E. Kingston (2016) Enhancer regions show high histone H3.3 turnover that changes during differentiation. eLife, 5:e15316

Dani L. Bodor, João F. Mata, Mikhail Sergeev, Ana Filipa David, Kevan J. Salimian, Tanya Panchenko, Don W. Cleveland, Ben E. Black, Jagesh V. Shah and Lars E.T. Jansen (2014) The quantitative architecture of centromeric chromatin. eLife, 3:e02137

Mariana C.C. Silva, Dani L. Bodor, Madison E. Stellfox, Nuno M.C. Martins, Helfrid Hochegger, Daniel R. Foltz and Lars E.T. Jansen (2012) Cdk activity couples epigenetic centromere inheritance to cell cycle progression. Developmental Cell, 22: 52–63