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Department of Genetics

The Department of Genetics is a basic science department located in the George and Cynthia Mitchell Basic Sciences Research Building at the world-renowned University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, in the heart of the Texas Medical Center. The focus is on advancing knowledge of the molecular genetic mechanisms that regulate normal and abnormal cellular processes. Research grant support totals approximately 10 million dollars in annual direct costs. Areas of research emphasis within the department include the identification of disease loci, the use of genetic systems to identify critical steps in development, differentiation, cell proliferation, cell death, DNA repair, and chromosome maintenance and segregation. These are important processes for cell and tissue maintenance that are often altered in cancer cells. The knowledge gained in our pursuit of basic mechanisms of cellular processes is shared with our clinical colleagues as we strive toward Making Cancer History®.

The department has 150 staff members comprised of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, instructors, non-tenure track faculty, professional research staff and administrative staff. There is a strong commitment to graduate and postgraduate education and training. The faculty members are primarily affiliated with the Genes & Development and the Human and Molecular Genetics Ph.D. Programs of Study within the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston. Training is enhanced by the John H. Blaffer Lecture Series, a weekly departmental seminar series called the Information Exchange, a weekly Research Forum for student and postdoc research presentations, and the Genes and Development Annual Retreat. An NIH T32 training grant, Molecular Genetics of Cancer (CA009299), is in its 35th year of funding, supporting four pre-doctoral students and five postdoctoral fellows.

The Center for Genetics and Genomics is one of seven centers within the Institute for Basic Science at MD Anderson, facilitating synergy in genetics and genomics research. The Center is administered through the Department of Genetics.


  • Survival of p53 mutant mice. – Lozano Lab

  • Whole mount fluorescent image of dissected gonad from C. elegans, showing germ cells with nuclei (green) and plasma membranes (red) at different stages of development. – Arur Lab 
  • Optical projection tomography image of mouse oviduct and uterus epithelia 12 days after birth. 3-dimensional structure of the uterine glands is revealed. – Behringer Lab

  • A fluorescent confocal image of the zebrafish epidermis at 4 days post-fertilization. The epithelium is a bilayer during development that is comprised of superficial periderm cells (green) and basal cells that express Np63 (magenta).  – Eisenhoffer Lab

  • Live fluorescent wholemount of wounded reporter larvae. Epidermal membranes (green); nuclei (yellow); puncture wound site (black).  Cells surrounding the wound dramatically reorient towards it.  - Galko Lab

  • Histological section of mouse skin 4 days after birth, immunofluorescent staining for Keratin 1 (red), β4-integrin (green), and DNA (blue). – Gladden Lab

  • Mouse model of Wilms tumor. Control mouse kidney (left), Wt1 mutant kidney with tumor (right). – Huff Lab

  • Immunohistochemical analysis of muscle biopsy from myotonic dystrophy type 2 patient, showing atrophic fibers positive for myosin heavy chain (brown), identifying them as fast twitch fibers. – Krahe Lab

  • A line of UV laser-induced DNA damage leads to recruitment of  gamma-H2AX (green) and Fanconi anemia group D2 (red) proteins in human osteosarcoma cells.  – Legerski Lab

  • Expression of REST (brown) in primary human medulloblastoma. – Majumder Lab

  • Frozen section of newborn testes stained for β-galactosidase (blue) from an Sf1 gene trap mouse. Sf1 directs β-galactosidase expression in the spermatogonial stem cells. – Matin Lab

  • Relative to Standard Control (SC), the injection of morpholino oligonucleotides (MO1 or MO3) to knockdown plakophilin3-catenin results in the reduced visualization of neural crest cell populations, included those that contribute to pigmented areas and to the eye of  Xenopus laevis embryos or tadpoles. In common with other catenins, plakophilin3-catenin functions at cell-cell contacts, as well as in the nucleus in gene control. – McCrea Lab

  • Circular visualization (Circos) plot of a human breast cancer genome. – Navin Lab

  • C. elegans cell in prophase stained for DNA (blue), and antibodies for the spindle (green) and phosphorylated TLK-1 kinase (red). phospho-TLK-1 localizes to the holocentric kinetochore "stripes" surrounding each condensing chromosome. – Schumacher Lab

  • Family with Li-Fraumeni Syndrome. The digit below each individual indicates the age of cancer onset for the affected or the age at last contact for unaffected relatives - Strong LFS Study


Dr. Guillermina Lozano elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies

Gigi Lozano, Ph.D.
Chair & Professor

Dr. Lozano is now one of nine MD Anderson faculty members in the IOM. She was recognized for her work on the p53 tumor suppressor pathway, specifically in regards to understanding the role of p53 mutants in tumorigenesis and the roles of Mdm2 and Mdm4 as inhibitors of p53.

Recipient of the R. Lee Clark Fellowship

Michael Galko, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor

This prestigious new award program recognizes and supports 16 MD Anderson junior faculty members whose early excellence indicates they will become future leaders. The program is named in honor of MD Anderson’s first president, R. Lee Clark.

2014 MD Anderson Internal “Knowledge Gaps”Grant Awardees

Guillermina "Gigi" Lozano, Ph.D., Professor and Chair
“Mechanisms of oncogenesis and metastasis with potential for translation”

Nicholas Navin, Assistant Professor
“Investigating metastasis and non-invasive monitoring in TNBC by single-cell sequencing”

Drs. Lozano and Navin were awarded $100,000 each from MD Anderson to support their efforts to fill the “knowledge gaps” that limit our ability to prevent, detect or treat cancer.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center