Judith Yanowitz, Ph.D.

  • Associate Professor
  • Magee-Womens Research Institute, Department of OB/GYN/RS

Education & Training

  • Ph.D. in Molecular Biology-Princeton University 1999
  • B.S. in Biology-MIT 1991

Research Interest Summary

The lab studies genome integrity pathways and reproductive aging using genetic, cytological, and biochemical approaches.

Research Interests

Each day, our genome is confronted with hundreds of insults that damage our DNA and must be repaired to ensure the proper functioning our cells and the faithful segregation of our genetic material to the next generation. The work in the Yanowitz lab uses the nematode, Caenorhabditis elegans, to molecularly and genetically characterize the processes that maintain genome integrity in developing germ cells. The current studies are divided into three mains area of research, 1) understanding the molecular events drive reproductive aging; 2) characterizing the molecular process that monitor meiotic crossover formation;  2) identifying and characterizing novel genome integrity factors.

Chromosome missegregation during the formation of egg and sperm are major causes of miscarriage and infertility. Further, greater than seventy percent of miscarriages arises from defects in meiotic crossover recombination. Our studies have identified proteins that control when, where and how many crossovers occur per chromosome. These studies provide insight into the etiology of human chromosome abnormalities by illuminating why some chromosomes are more susceptible to missegregation than others. These studies led us to identify a crossover surveillance system that ensures that each chromosome receives an exchange and delays development if they have not. Understanding how this system works may be exploited to identify oocytes that have properly executed all of the events of meiosis. Lastly, we have identified several key proteins that have dual roles in meiotic DNA repair and replicative repair, ensuring that meiotic exchanges and repair of double-strand breaks from genotoxic exposure are repaired with high fidelity. Thus, deeper understanding of these proteins may provide insights into both reproductive health, as well as cancer.

Representative Publications

Bhargava V, Goldstein CD, Russell L, Xu L, Ahmed M, Li W, Casey A, Servage K, Kollipara R, Picciarelli Z, Kittler R, Yatsenko A, Carmell M, Orth K, Amatruda JF*, Yanowitz JL*, and Buszczak M*. 2020. GCNA protects genome integrity and fertility across species. Dev Cell. 52(1):38-52; DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.devcel.2019.11.007 *co-corresponding authors. 

Li W and Yanowitz JL. 2019. ATM and ATR Influence Meiotic Crossover Formation Through Antagonistic and Overlapping Functions in Caenorhabditis elegans. Genetics. Jun;212(2):431-443. doi: 10.1534/genetics.119.302193

Ahuja JS, Sandhu R, Mainpal R, Lawson C, Henley H, Hunt PA, Yanowitz JL, Börner GV. 2017. Control of meiotic pairing and recombination by chromosomally tethered 26S proteasome. Science. Jan 27;355(6323):408-411. doi: 10.1126/science.aaf4778. Epub 2017 Jan 5. PMID:28059715

Macaisne N, Kessler Z, Yanowitz JL. 2018. Meiotic Double-Strand Break Proteins Influence Repair Pathway Utilization. Genetics. Sep 21; pii: genetics.301402.2018. doi: 10.1534/genetics.118.301402.

Machovina TS, Mainpal R, Daryabeigi A, McGovern O, Paouneskou D, Labella S, Zetka M, Jantsch V, Yanowitz JL. 2016. A Surveillance System Ensures Crossover Formation in C. elegans. Curr Biol. Nov;26(21):2873-2884. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.007. PMCID:PMC5104180

Full List of Publications