Researcher’s Profile

Max E. Gottesman, PhD

Director, Institute for Cancer Research

I was born in 1935 in New York City and grew up there. I have a degree in Philosophy from Swarthmore College and an MD and PhD from Yale University. After a post doc at Rockefeller University, I went to the National Institutes of Health. Except for a year abroad in Paris at the Pasteur Institute, I remained at NIH for 19 years before moving to Columbia University in 1985 to assume the Directorship of the Institute of Cancer research. In addition to writing poetry, I do laboratory research on the genetics of viruses and cancer cells.

Research Statement: 

My laboratory investigates the mechanism of transcription termination in E. coli and how termination affects other cellular processes. Blocking the release of a stalled transcription elongation complex leads to clashes with the replisome and the formation of lethal DNA double-strand breaks. Coupling of transcription to translation suppresses stalling.  NusG links RNA polymerase and the first translating ribosome. The linkage is broken by tmRNA, which releases ribosomes at rare codons. The interactions among ribosomes, RNA polymerase and DNA polymerase are being investigated using genetic and biochemical approaches. In addition, the laboratory is probing the structure of the ribosome-NusG-RNA polymerase complex (in collaboration with Dr. J. Frank).

Phage HK022 Nun protein has been an active area of research. We have just begun to understand how Nun interacts with E. coli RNAP to arrest transcription. Nun, however, is full of surprises, and continues to amaze.

We also have a long-standing interest in repair of DNA damage. With Dr. J. Gautier, we defined a replication-independent DNA inter-strand crosslink (ICL) repair pathway in Xenopus oocyte extracts. We have now established an E. coli based system that monitors transcription-coupled repair of ICLs.


1. Kim, H.C. and Gottesman, M.E.: (2004) Transcription Termination by Phage HK022 Nun Is Facilitated by C-terminal Lysine Residues.   J. Biol. Chem  279: 13412-7 

2. Feliciello, A., Gottesman, M.E., and Avvedimento, E.V. : (2005) cAMP-PKA signaling to the mitochondria: protein scaffolds, mRNA and phosphatases.  Cellular Signalling   17: 279-287 

3. Kim, H.C., Washburn, R.S, and Gottesman M.E. : (2006) Role of E. coli NusA in Phage HK022 Nun-mediated Transcription Termination.  J. Mol. Biol   359: 10-12 

4. Björn M. Burmann B, Schweimer K, Luo X, Wahl MC, Stitt BL Gottesman ME, and Rösch P: (2010) A NusG:NusE complex links transcription and translation.  Science  (in press)