Livio Pellizzoni

Columbia University, New York City, New York, United States

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Publications (35)348.69 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: At the post-transcriptional level, expression of protein-coding genes is controlled by a series of RNA regulatory events including nuclear processing of primary transcripts, transport of mature mRNAs to specific cellular compartments, translation and ultimately, turnover. These processes are orchestrated through the dynamic association of mRNAs with RNA binding proteins and ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Accurate formation of RNPs in vivo is fundamentally important to cellular development and function, and its impairment often leads to human disease. The survival motor neuron (SMN) protein is key to this biological paradigm: SMN is essential for the biogenesis of various RNPs that function in mRNA processing, and genetic mutations leading to SMN deficiency cause the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy. Here we review the expanding role of SMN in the regulation of gene expression through its multiple functions in RNP assembly. We discuss advances in our understanding of SMN activity as a chaperone of RNPs and how disruption of SMN-dependent RNA pathways can cause motor neuron disease.
    Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 04/2014; · 6.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: At the post-transcriptional level, expression of protein-coding genes is controlled by a series of RNA regulatory events including nuclear processing of primary transcripts, transport of mature mRNAs to specific cellular compartments, translation and ultimately, turnover. These processes are orchestrated through the dynamic association of mRNAs with RNA binding proteins and ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complexes. Accurate formation of RNPs in vivo is fundamentally important to cellular development and function, and its impairment often leads to human disease. The survival motor neuron (SMN) protein is key to this biological paradigm: SMN is essential for the biogenesis of various RNPs that function in mRNA processing, and genetic mutations leading to SMN deficiency cause the neurodegenerative disease spinal muscular atrophy. Here we review the expanding role of SMN in the regulation of gene expression through its multiple functions in RNP assembly. We discuss advances in our understanding of SMN activity as a chaperone of RNPs and how disruption of SMN-dependent RNA pathways can cause motor neuron disease.
    Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology 01/2014; · 6.20 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a neurodegenerative disease caused by a deficiency in the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. SMN mediates the assembly of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) and possibly other RNPs. Here, we investigated SMN requirement for the biogenesis and function of U7-an snRNP specialized in the 3'-end formation of replication-dependent histone mRNAs that normally are not polyadenylated. We show that SMN deficiency impairs U7 snRNP assembly and decreases U7 levels in mammalian cells. The SMN-dependent U7 reduction affects endonucleolytic cleavage of histone mRNAs leading to abnormal accumulation of 3'-extended and polyadenylated transcripts followed by downstream changes in histone gene expression. Importantly, SMN deficiency induces defects of histone mRNA 3'-end formation in both SMA mice and human patients. These findings demonstrate that SMN is essential for U7 biogenesis and histone mRNA processing in vivo and identify an additional RNA pathway disrupted in SMA.
    Cell Reports 12/2013; 5(5):1187-1195. · 7.21 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by mutations of the survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene, retention of the survival motor neuron 2 (SMN2) gene, and insufficient expression of full-length survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. Quinazolines increase SMN2 promoter activity and inhibit the ribonucleic acid scavenger enzyme DcpS. The quinazoline derivative RG3039 has advanced to early phase clinical trials. In preparation for efficacy studies in SMA patients, we investigated the effects of RG3039 in severe SMA mice. Here, we show that RG3039 distributed to central nervous system tissues where it robustly inhibited DcpS enzyme activity, but minimally activated SMN expression or the assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins. Nonetheless, treated SMA mice showed a dose-dependent increase in survival, weight, and motor function. This was associated with improved motor neuron somal and neuromuscular junction synaptic innervation and function and increased muscle size. RG3039 also enhanced survival of conditional SMA mice in which SMN had been genetically-restored to motor neurons. As this systemically delivered drug may have therapeutic benefits that extend beyond motor neurons, it could act additively with SMN-restoring therapies delivered directly to the central nervous system such as antisense oligonucleotides or gene therapy.
    Human Molecular Genetics 05/2013; · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an inherited neurodegenerative disease caused by homozygous inactivation of the SMN1 gene and reduced levels of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. Since higher copy numbers of the nearly identical SMN2 gene reduce disease severity, to date most efforts to develop a therapy for SMA have focused on enhancing SMN expression. Identification of alternative therapeutic approaches has partly been hindered by limited knowledge of potential targets and the lack of cell-based screening assays that serve as readouts of SMN function. Here, we established a cell system in which proliferation of cultured mouse fibroblasts is dependent on functional SMN produced from the SMN2 gene. To do so, we introduced the entire human SMN2 gene into NIH3T3 cell lines in which regulated knockdown of endogenous mouse Smn severely decreases cell proliferation. We found that low SMN2 copy number has modest effects on the cell proliferation phenotype induced by Smn depletion, while high SMN2 copy number is strongly protective. Additionally, cell proliferation correlates with the level of SMN activity in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein assembly. Following miniaturization into a high-throughput format, our cell-based phenotypic assay accurately measures the beneficial effects of both pharmacological and genetic treatments leading to SMN upregulation. This cell model provides a novel platform for phenotypic screening of modifiers of SMN2 gene expression and function that act through multiple mechanisms, and a powerful new tool for studies of SMN biology and SMA therapeutic development.
    PLoS ONE 01/2013; 8(8):e71965. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Graphical Abstract Figure optionsView in workspace Highlights ► SMN is required for U12 splicing ► Stasimon is an SMN-dependent U12 gene required for motor circuit function ► Stasimon restoration corrects motor neuron dysfunction in animal models of SMA ► Stasimon U12 splicing is disrupted in motor circuit neurons of SMA mice
    Cell. 10/2012; 151(2):440–454.
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a lethal human disease characterized by motor neuron dysfunction and muscle deterioration due to depletion of the ubiquitous survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. Drosophila SMN mutants have reduced muscle size and defective locomotion, motor rhythm, and motor neuron neurotransmission. Unexpectedly, restoration of SMN in either muscles or motor neurons did not alter these phenotypes. Instead, SMN must be expressed in proprioceptive neurons and interneurons in the motor circuit to nonautonomously correct defects in motor neurons and muscles. SMN depletion disrupts the motor system subsequent to circuit development and can be mimicked by the inhibition of motor network function. Furthermore, increasing motor circuit excitability by genetic or pharmacological inhibition of K(+) channels can correct SMN-dependent phenotypes. These results establish sensory-motor circuit dysfunction as the origin of motor system deficits in this SMA model and suggest that enhancement of motor neural network activity could ameliorate the disease.
    Cell 10/2012; 151(2):427-39. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease caused by deficiency of the ubiquitous survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. To define the mechanisms of selective neuronal dysfunction in SMA, we investigated the role of SMN-dependent U12 splicing events in the regulation of motor circuit activity. We show that SMN deficiency perturbs splicing and decreases the expression of a subset of U12 intron-containing genes in mammalian cells and Drosophila larvae. Analysis of these SMN target genes identifies Stasimon as a protein required for motor circuit function. Restoration of Stasimon expression in the motor circuit corrects defects in neuromuscular junction transmission and muscle growth in Drosophila SMN mutants and aberrant motor neuron development in SMN-deficient zebrafish. These findings directly link defective splicing of critical neuronal genes induced by SMN deficiency to motor circuit dysfunction, establishing a molecular framework for the selective pathology of SMA.
    Cell 10/2012; 151(2):440-54. · 31.96 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an inherited motor neuron disease caused by homozygous loss of the Survival Motor Neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. In the absence of SMN1, inefficient inclusion of exon 7 in transcripts from the nearly identical SMN2 gene results in ubiquitous SMN decrease but selective motor neuron degeneration. Here we investigated whether cell type-specific differences in the efficiency of exon 7 splicing contribute to the vulnerability of SMA motor neurons. We show that normal motor neurons express markedly lower levels of full-length SMN mRNA from SMN2 than do other cells in the spinal cord. This is due to inefficient exon 7 splicing that is intrinsic to motor neurons under normal conditions. We also find that SMN depletion in mammalian cells decreases exon 7 inclusion through a negative feedback loop affecting the splicing of its own mRNA. This mechanism is active in vivo and further decreases the efficiency of exon 7 inclusion specifically in motor neurons of severe-SMA mice. Consistent with expression of lower levels of full-length SMN, we find that SMN-dependent downstream molecular defects are exacerbated in SMA motor neurons. These findings suggest a mechanism to explain the selective vulnerability of motor neurons to loss of SMN1.
    Molecular and cellular biology 01/2012; 32(1):126-38. · 6.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a common neuromuscular disorder in humans. In fact, it is the most frequently inherited cause of infant mortality, being the result of mutations in the survival of motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene that reduce levels of SMN protein. Restoring levels of SMN protein in individuals with SMA is perceived to be a viable therapeutic option, but the efficacy of such a strategy once symptoms are apparent has not been determined. We have generated mice harboring an inducible Smn rescue allele and used them in a model of SMA to investigate the effects of turning on SMN expression at different time points during the course of the disease. Restoring SMN protein even after disease onset was sufficient to reverse neuromuscular pathology and effect robust rescue of the SMA phenotype. Importantly, our findings also indicated that there was a therapeutic window of opportunity from P4 through P8 defined by the extent of neuromuscular synapse pathology and the ability of motor neurons to respond to SMN induction, following which restoration of the protein to the organism failed to produce therapeutic benefit. Nevertheless, our results suggest that even in severe SMA, timely reinstatement of the SMN protein may halt the progression of the disease and serve as an effective postsymptomatic treatment.
    The Journal of clinical investigation 08/2011; 121(8):3029-41. · 15.39 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Proximal spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), one of the most common genetic causes of infant death, results from the selective loss of motor neurons in the spinal cord. SMA is a consequence of low levels of survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. In humans, the SMN gene is duplicated; SMA results from the loss of SMN1 but SMN2 remains intact. SMA severity is related to the copy number of SMN2. Compounds which increase the expression of SMN2 could, therefore, be potential therapeutics for SMA. Ultrahigh-throughput screening recently identified substituted quinazolines as potent SMN2 inducers. A series of C5-quinazoline derivatives were tested for their ability to increase SMN expression in vivo. Oral administration of three compounds (D152344, D153249 and D156844) to neonatal mice resulted in a dose-dependent increase in Smn promoter activity in the central nervous system. We then examined the effect of these compounds on the progression of disease in SMN lacking exon 7 (SMNDelta7) SMA mice. Oral administration of D156844 significantly increased the mean lifespan of SMNDelta7 SMA mice by approximately 21-30% when given prior to motor neuron loss. In summary, the C5-quinazoline derivative D156844 increases SMN expression in neonatal mouse neural tissues, delays motor neuron loss at PND11 and ameliorates the motor phenotype of SMNDelta7 SMA mice.
    Human Molecular Genetics 11/2009; 19(3):454-67. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an autosomal recessive neurodegenerative disease. Loss of the survival motor neuron (SMN1) gene, in the presence of the SMN2 gene causes SMA. SMN functions in snRNP assembly in all cell types, however, it is unclear how this function results in specifically motor neuron cell death. Lack of endogenous mouse SMN (Smn) in mice results in embryonic lethality. Introduction of two copies of human SMN2 results in a mouse with severe SMA, while one copy of SMN2 is insufficient to overcome embryonic lethality. We show that SMN(A111G), an allele capable of snRNP assembly, can rescue mice that lack Smn and contain either one or two copies of SMN2 (SMA mice). The correction of SMA in these animals was directly correlated with snRNP assembly activity in spinal cord, as was correction of snRNA levels. These data support snRNP assembly as being the critical function affected in SMA and suggests that the levels of snRNPs are critical to motor neurons. Furthermore, SMN(A111G) cannot rescue Smn-/- mice without SMN2 suggesting that both SMN(A111G) and SMN from SMN2 undergo intragenic complementation in vivo to function in heteromeric complexes that have greater function than either allele alone. The oligomer composed of limiting full-length SMN and SMN(A111G) has substantial snRNP assembly activity. Also, the SMN(A2G) and SMN(A111G) alleles in vivo did not complement each other leading to the possibility that these mutations could affect the same function.
    Human Molecular Genetics 04/2009; 18(12):2215-29. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a recessive neuromuscular disease caused by mutations in the human survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene. The human SMN protein is part of a large macromolecular complex involved in the biogenesis of small ribonucleoproteins. Previously, we showed that SMN is a sarcomeric protein in flies and mice. In this report, we show that the entire mouse Smn complex localizes to the sarcomeric Z-disc. Smn colocalizes with alpha-actinin, a Z-disc marker protein, in both skeletal and cardiac myofibrils. Furthermore, this localization is both calcium- and calpain-dependent. Calpains are known to release proteins from various regions of the sarcomere as a part of the normal functioning of the muscle; however, this removal can be either direct or indirect. Using mammalian cell lysates, purified native SMN complexes, as well as recombinant SMN protein, we show that SMN is a direct target of calpain cleavage. Finally, myofibers from a mouse model of severe SMA, but not controls, display morphological defects that are consistent with a Z-disc deficiency. These results support the view that the SMN complex performs a muscle-specific function at the Z-discs.
    Human Molecular Genetics 09/2008; 17(21):3399-410. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    Livio Pellizzoni
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    ABSTRACT: The survival motor neuron (SMN) protein is part of a macromolecular complex that functions in the biogenesis of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs)--the essential components of the pre-messenger RNA splicing machinery--as well as probably other RNPs. Reduced levels of SMN expression cause the inherited motor neuron disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Knowledge of the composition, interactions and functions of the SMN complex has advanced greatly in recent years. The emerging picture is that the SMN complex acts as a macromolecular chaperone of RNPs to increase the efficiency and fidelity of RNA-protein interactions in vivo, and to provide an opportunity for these interactions to be regulated. In addition, it seems that RNA metabolism deficiencies underlie SMA. Here, a dual dysfunction hypothesis is presented in which two mechanistically and temporally distinct defects--that are dependent on the extent of SMN reduction in SMA--affect the homeostasis of specific messenger RNAs encoding proteins essential for motor neuron development and function.
    EMBO Reports 04/2007; 8(4):340-5. · 7.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The inherited motor neuron disease spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is caused by mutation of the telomeric survival motor neuron 1 (SMN1) gene with retention of the centromeric SMN2 gene. We sought to establish whether the potent and specific hydroxamic acid class of histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors activates SMN2 gene expression in vivo and modulates the SMA disease phenotype when delivered after disease onset. Single intraperitoneal doses of 10 mg/kg trichostatin A (TSA) in nontransgenic and SMA model mice resulted in increased levels of acetylated H3 and H4 histones and modest increases in SMN gene expression. Repeated daily doses of TSA caused increases in both SMN2-derived transcript and SMN protein levels in neural tissues and muscle, which were associated with an improvement in small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) assembly. When TSA was delivered daily beginning on P5, after the onset of weight loss and motor deficit, there was improved survival, attenuated weight loss, and enhanced motor behavior. Pathological analysis showed increased myofiber size and number and increased anterior horn cell size. These results indicate that the hydroxamic acid class of HDAC inhibitors activates SMN2 gene expression in vivo and has an ameliorating effect on the SMA disease phenotype when administered after disease onset.
    Journal of Clinical Investigation 04/2007; 117(3):659-71. · 12.81 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a motor neuron disease caused by reduced levels of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. SMN together with Gemins2-8 and unrip proteins form a macromolecular complex that functions in the assembly of small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) of both the major and the minor splicing pathways. It is not known whether the levels of spliceosomal snRNPs are decreased in SMA. Here we analyzed the consequence of SMN deficiency on snRNP metabolism in the spinal cord of mouse models of SMA with differing phenotypic severities. We demonstrate that the expression of a subset of Gemin proteins and snRNP assembly activity are dramatically reduced in the spinal cord of severe SMA mice. Comparative analysis of different tissues highlights a similar decrease in SMN levels and a strong impairment of snRNP assembly in tissues of severe SMA mice, although the defect appears smaller in kidney than in neural tissue. We further show that the extent of reduction in both Gemin proteins expression and snRNP assembly activity in the spinal cord of SMA mice correlates with disease severity. Remarkably, defective SMN complex function in snRNP assembly causes a significant decrease in the levels of a subset of snRNPs and preferentially affects the accumulation of U11 snRNP--a component of the minor spliceosome--in tissues of severe SMA mice. Thus, impairment of a ubiquitous function of SMN changes the snRNP profile of SMA tissues by unevenly altering the normal proportion of endogenous snRNPs. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that SMN deficiency affects the splicing machinery and in particular the minor splicing pathway of a rare class of introns in SMA.
    PLoS ONE 02/2007; 2(9):e921. · 3.73 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The biogenesis of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) in higher eukaryotes requires the functions of several cellular proteins and includes nuclear as well as cytoplasmic phases. In the cytoplasm, a macromolecular complex containing the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein, Gemin2-8 and Unrip mediates the ATP-dependent assembly of Sm proteins and snRNAs into snRNPs. To carry out snRNP assembly, the SMN complex binds directly to both Sm proteins and snRNAs; however, the contribution of the individual components of the SMN complex to its composition, interactions, and function is poorly characterized. Here, we have investigated the functional role of Gemin8 using novel monoclonal antibodies against components of the SMN complex and RNA interference experiments. We show that Gemin6, Gemin7, and Unrip form a stable cytoplasmic complex whose association with SMN requires Gemin8. Gemin8 binds directly to SMN and mediates its interaction with the Gemin6/Gemin7 heterodimer. Importantly, loss of Gemin6, Gemin7, and Unrip interaction with SMN as a result of Gemin8 knockdown affects snRNP assembly by impairing the SMN complex association with Sm proteins but not with snRNAs. These results reveal the essential role of Gemin8 for the proper structural organization of the SMN complex and the involvement of the heteromeric subunit containing Gemin6, Gemin7, Gemin8, and Unrip in the recruitment of Sm proteins to the snRNP assembly pathway.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 01/2007; 281(48):37009-16. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The survival motor neuron (SMN) protein is the product of the spinal muscular atrophy disease gene. SMN and Gemin2-7 proteins form a large macromolecular complex that localizes in the cytoplasm as well as in the nucleoplasm and in nuclear Gems. The SMN complex interacts with several additional proteins and likely functions in multiple cellular pathways. In the cytoplasm, a subset of SMN complexes containing unrip and Sm proteins mediates the assembly of spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Here, by mass spectrometry analysis of SMN complexes purified from HeLa cells, we identified a novel protein that is evolutionarily conserved in metazoans, and we named it Gemin8. Co-immunoprecipitation and immunolocalization experiments demonstrated that Gemin8 is associated with the SMN complex and is localized in the cytoplasm and in the nucleus, where it is highly concentrated in Gems. Gemin8 interacts directly with the Gemin6-Gemin7 heterodimer and, together with unrip, these proteins form a heteromeric subunit of the SMN complex. Gemin8 is also associated with Sm proteins, and Gemin8-containing SMN complexes are competent to carry out snRNP assembly. Importantly, RNA interference experiments indicate that Gemin8 knock-down impairs snRNP assembly, and Gemin8 expression is down-regulated in cells with low levels of SMN. These results demonstrate that Gemin8 is a novel integral component of the SMN complex and extend the repertoire of cellular proteins involved in the pathway of snRNP biogenesis.
    Journal of Biological Chemistry 04/2006; 281(12):8126-34. · 4.65 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a lethal neuromuscular disease caused by reduced levels of expression of the survival motor neuron (SMN) protein. SMN is part of a macromolecular complex essential for the assembly of the small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs) that carry out pre-mRNA splicing. Although the SMN complex has the potential to control the pathway of snRNP biogenesis, it is not known whether SMN function in snRNP assembly is regulated. Here, we analyze SMN interactions and function in mouse tissues and show that, when normalized per cell number, similar levels of the SMN complex are expressed throughout the ontogenesis of the central nervous system (CNS). Strikingly, however, SMN function in snRNP assembly in extracts does not correlate with its expression levels and it varies greatly both among tissues and during development. The highest levels of SMN activity are found during the embryonic and early postnatal development of the CNS and are followed by a sharp decrease to a basal level, which is then maintained throughout life. This downregulation takes place in the spinal cord earlier than in the brain and coincides with the onset of myelination. Using model cell systems and pulse-labeling experiments, we further show that SMN activity and snRNP synthesis are strongly downregulated upon neuronal as well as myogenic differentiation, and linked to the rate of global transcription of postmitotic neurons and myotubes. These results demonstrate that the SMN complex activity in snRNP assembly is regulated and point to a differential requirement for SMN function during development and cellular differentiation.
    Human Molecular Genetics 01/2006; 14(23):3629-42. · 7.69 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: A macromolecular complex containing survival of motor neurons (SMN), the spinal muscular atrophy protein, and Gemin2-7 interacts with Sm proteins and snRNAs to carry out the assembly of these components into spliceosomal small nuclear ribonucleoproteins (snRNPs). Here we report the characterization of unr-interacting protein (unrip), a GH-WD protein of unknown function, as a component of the SMN complex that interacts directly with Gemin6 and Gemin7. Unrip also binds a subset of Sm proteins, and unrip-containing SMN complexes are necessary and sufficient to mediate the assembly of spliceosomal snRNPs. These results demonstrate that unrip functions in the pathway of snRNP biogenesis and is a marker of cellular SMN complexes active in snRNP assembly.
    FEBS Letters 05/2005; 579(11):2348-54. · 3.58 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

2k Citations
348.69 Total Impact Points

Institutions

  • 2012–2014
    • Columbia University
      • • Motor Neuron Center for Biology and Disease Research
      • • Department of Pathology & Cell Biology
      New York City, New York, United States
    • The Ohio State University
      Columbus, Ohio, United States
  • 2005–2007
    • Dulbecco Telethon Institute
      Dublin, California, United States
  • 1998–2004
    • Howard Hughes Medical Institute
      Maryland, United States
  • 2002
    • European Molecular Biology Laboratory
      Heidelburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany