Sally A. Kornbluth

Jo Rae Wright University Distinguished Professor

421 Chapel Drive, 220 Allen Building, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
90005, Durham, NC 27708
(919) 684-2631
Our lab studies the regulation of complex cellular processes, including cell cycle progression and programmed cell death (apoptosis). These tightly orchestrated processes are critical for appropriate cell proliferation and cell death, and when they go awry can result in cancer and degenerative disorders. Within these larger fields, we have focused on understanding the cellular mechanisms that prevent the onset of mitosis prior to the completion of DNA replication, the processes that prevent cell division when the mitotic spindle is disrupted, the signaling pathways that prevent apoptotic cell death in cancer cells and the mechanisms that link cell metabolism to cell death and survival. In our quest to answer these important cell biological and biochemical questions, we are varied in our use of experimental systems.   Traditionally, we have used cell-free extracts prepared from eggs of the frog Xenopus laevis which can recapitulate cell cycle events and apoptotic processes in vitro. For the study of cell cycle events, extracts are prepared which can undergo multiple rounds of DNA replication and mitosis in vitro. Progression through the cell cycle can be monitored by microscopic observation of nuclear morphology and by biochemically assaying the activity of serine/threonine kinases which control cell cycle transitions. For the study of apoptosis, modifications in extract preparation have allowed us to produce extracts which can apoptotically fragment nuclei and can accurately reproduce the biochemical events of apoptosis, including internucleosomal DNA cleavage and activation of apoptotic proteases, the caspases. More recently, we have focused on studying apoptosis and cell cycle progression in mammalian models, both tissue culture cells and mouse models of cancer.  In these studies, we are trying to determine the precise signaling mechanisms used by cancer cells to accelerate proliferation and evade apoptotic cell death mechanisms.   We also endeavor to subvert these mechanisms to therapeutic advantage.   We are particularly interested in links between metabolism and cell death, as high metabolic rates in cancer cells appear to suppress apoptosis to evade chemotherapy-induced cell death. Finally, we also have several projects using the facile genetics of Drosophila melanogaster to further understand links between metabolism and cell death and also the ways in which mitochondrial dynamics are linked to apoptotic pathways.


  • Ph.D., Rockefeller University 1989

Andersen, Joshua L., Carrie E. Johnson, Christopher D. Freel, Amanda B. Parrish, Jennifer L. Day, Marisa R. Buchakjian, Leta K. Nutt, J Will Thompson, M Arthur Moseley, and Sally Kornbluth. “Restraint of apoptosis during mitosis through interdomain phosphorylation of caspase-2.Embo J 28, no. 20 (October 21, 2009): 3216–27. Full Text

Andersen, Joshua L., and Sally Kornbluth. “A cut above the other caspases.Molecular Cell 35, no. 6 (September 2009): 733–34. Full Text

Kurokawa, Manabu, and Sally Kornbluth. “Caspases and kinases in a death grip.Cell 138, no. 5 (September 2009): 838–54. Full Text

Galluzzi, L., S. A. Aaronson, J. Abrams, E. S. Alnemri, D. W. Andrews, E. H. Baehrecke, N. G. Bazan, et al. “Guidelines for the use and interpretation of assays for monitoring cell death in higher eukaryotes.Cell Death and Differentiation 16, no. 8 (August 2009): 1093–1107. Full Text

Nutt, Leta K., Marisa R. Buchakjian, Eugene Gan, Rashid Darbandi, Sook-Young Yoon, Judy Q. Wu, Yuko J. Miyamoto, et al. “Metabolic control of oocyte apoptosis mediated by 14-3-3zeta-regulated dephosphorylation of caspase-2.Developmental Cell 16, no. 6 (June 2009): 856–66. Full Text

Wu, Judy Qiju, Jessie Yanxiang Guo, Wanli Tang, Chih-Sheng Yang, Christopher D. Freel, Chen Chen, Angus C. Nairn, and Sally Kornbluth. “PP1-mediated dephosphorylation of phosphoproteins at mitotic exit is controlled by inhibitor-1 and PP1 phosphorylation.Nature Cell Biology 11, no. 5 (May 2009): 644–51. Full Text

Wieman, Heather L., Sarah R. Horn, Sarah R. Jacobs, Brian J. Altman, Sally Kornbluth, and Jeffrey C. Rathmell. “An essential role for the Glut1 PDZ-binding motif in growth factor regulation of Glut1 degradation and trafficking.Biochem J 418, no. 2 (March 1, 2009): 345–67. Full Text

Wu, Judy Qiju, and Sally Kornbluth. “Across the meiotic divide - CSF activity in the post-Emi2/XErp1 era.Journal of Cell Science 121, no. Pt 21 (November 2008): 3509–14. Full Text Open Access Copy

Wang, Michael Zhuo, Judy Qiju Wu, Jennifer B. Dennison, Arlene S. Bridges, Stephen D. Hall, Sally Kornbluth, Richard R. Tidwell, et al. “A gel-free MS-based quantitative proteomic approach accurately measures cytochrome P450 protein concentrations in human liver microsomes.Proteomics 8, no. 20 (October 2008): 4186–96. Full Text

Johnson, Carrie E., and Sally Kornbluth. “Caspase cleavage is not for everyone.Cell 134, no. 5 (September 2008): 720–21. Full Text