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Houston, Texas

CMB research is conducted at Baylor College of Medicine in the Texas Medical Center, Houston.
Integrative Molecular and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program
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Austin J. Cooney, Ph.D.

Austin J. Cooney, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology
Ph.D.: National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Postdoctoral training: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston

Research Interests:

Nuclear receptor regulation of embryonic stem cell function
Human ES cells have the potential to be used in regenerative therapies to treat many diseases by replacing damaged tissue. A long-term hope is that re-programming of patient derived cells to generate ES cells will permit the generation of isogenic therapies. The rate-limiting step in re-programming by somatic cell nuclear transfer is the reactivation of the Oct4 gene. Understanding the maintenance and silencing of pluripotency gene expression will help in understanding the reverse process of re-programming. One of my long-term research goals is to understand how gene expression is regulated in ES cells to maintain self-renewal and pluripotence; I am also interested in the flip side of this question, how is pluripotency genes silenced during ES cell differentiation. To this field I bring some unique expertise from the world of nuclear receptors.

My second research interest is to understand how nuclear receptors regulate gene expression to affect alterations in phenotype and physiology in response to hormones. Nuclear receptors constitute a discrete gene family encoding ligand-activated transcription factors, which includes orphan receptors whose ligands and functions are unknown. Orphan receptors, which constitute half of the 48 gene family, are part of the druggable genome and represent a current and future growth area in biomedical research. Understanding the novel physiological roles and mechanisms of action of orphan receptors will ultimately translate into understanding human disease and ultimately developing novel treatments and therapies.

Our in vivo model system is the mouse. We employ various knock-out, knock-in, and transgenic strategies to study the roles of orphan receptors in regulating gene expression and differentiation in early embryonic development. Our in vitro model system for dissecting the transcriptional role of nuclear receptors are embryonic stem cells. Our major system for mechanistic studies are mouse ES cells and we translate our findings to human ES cells.

Oct4 and Nanog expression in a mouse embryonic stem cell embryoid body detected by immunofluorescence.

Oct4 and Nanog expression in a mouse
embryonic stem cell embryoid body
detected by immunofluorescence.

Selected Publications:

  1. Chung AC, Xu X, Neiderreither K and Cooney, AJ. (2006). Orphan nuclear receptor GCNF is required for the establishment of forebrain and isthmic organizer. Developmental Biology 293:13-24.
  2. Lan ZJ, Xu X and Cooney AJ. (2004). Differential oocyte-specific expression of Cre recombinase activity in GDF-9-iCre, Zp3Cre and Msx2Cre transgenic mice. Biology of Reproduction 71:1469-1474.
  3. Lan ZJ, Gu P, Xu X, Jackson K, DeMayo FJ, O’Malley BW and Cooney AJ. (2003). GCNF-dependent repression of BMP-15 and GDF-9 expression mediates gamete regulation of female fertility. EMBO Journal 22:4070-4081.
  4. Chung ACK, Katz D, Pereira FA, Jackson KJ, DeMayo FJ, Cooney AJ and O’Malley BW. (2001). Loss of orphan receptor Germ Cell Nuclear Factor (GCNF) function results in ectopic development of the tail bud and a novel posterior truncation. Molecular and Cellular Biology 21:663-677.
  5. Fuhrmann G, Chung AC, Jackson KJ, Hummelke G, Baniahmad A, Sutter J, Sylvester I, Schöler HR and Cooney, AJ. (2001). Mouse germline restriction of Oct4 expression by Germ Cell Nuclear Factor. Developmental Cell 1:377-387. Review: Donovan PJ High Oct-ane fuel powers the stem cell. Nature Genetics 29:246-247.
  6. Chen F, Cooney AJ, Wang Y, Law SW and O'Malley BW. (1994). Cloning of a novel orphan receptor (GCNF) expressed during germ cell development. Molecular Endocrinology 8:1434-1444.

For more publications, see listing on PubMed.

Contact Information:

Baylor College of Medicine
One Baylor Plaza,
Houston, TX 77030

Phone: 713-798-6250

Updated: 5/12

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