Jill de Jong, M.D., Ph.D.

APPOINTMENTS

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Department of Hematology/Oncology, Cancer Research Center, Committee on Cancer Biology, Committee on Immunology

EDUCATION

M.D., University of Wisconsin, 1999

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, 1997

CONTACT INFORMATION

The University of Chicago
KCBD 5120
900 East 57th Street
Chicago, Illinois 60637

jdejong@peds.bsd.uchicago.edu

Phone:  (773) 702-2646

Website (Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases)

RESEARCH SUMMARY

My laboratory studies the genes that regulate normal hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) function in the bone marrow and after hematopoietic transplantation, and the mechanisms by which those genes contribute to the development of leukemia or lymphoma when their expression is dysregulated.

Currently the lab is focused on three main research projects:

1.) Genetic Screen for Regulators of Hematopoietic Stem Cell Engraftment 
We are using the zebrafish as a unique animal model system to perform an unbiased in vivo genetic screen for regulators of HSC function in the hopes of identifying new pathways important for HSC engraftment. The zebrafish provides a number of advantages, including small size, high fecundity, rapid maturation and external fertilization, making the zebrafish amenable to genetic screens and other studies that would be prohibitively expensive or impossible in the mouse. Capitalizing on these advantages, our goal is to characterize the genes identified in the screen, validate their function in mammalian cells, and ultimately apply what we discover to the treatment of human blood diseases.

2.) Characterization of Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Genes in the Zebrafish
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) genes play a central role in the host animal recognizing a transplanted tissue as either foreign or self. Immunologic matching of the Class I and Class II MHC genes in mammals involves typing donors and recipients at a single chromosomal locus, but in the zebrafish the MHC genes appear to be scattered across several chromosomal loci. Functionally, very little is known about the zebrafish MHC genes, and this lack of knowledge has hindered transplantation experiments. 

We have cloned many of the putative zebrafish MHC genes into expression vectors and are developing transgenic zebrafish lines for tumor transplantation experiments to test which genes are important for the rejection of transplanted tissues. A related project also studies graft vs. host disease in zebrafish after transplantation of immunologically mismatched hematopoietic stem cells.

3.) Examining the Function of Histone Deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) in Hematopoietic Stem Cells
Gene regulation by chromatin modification is critical for normal cellular differentiation, while dysregulation of these mechanisms can lead to cancer. Histone deactelylases (HDACs) modify the structure of chromatin by removing acetyl groups, thereby inhibiting the transcription of adjacent genes. When HDAC activity is aberrantly increased, as observed in many types of cancer including leukemia and lymphoma, the gene expression profile of a cell is altered, resulting in malignant transformation. This project focuses on HDAC1 and its role in the function of HSCs and leukemia cells. Preliminary work has identified HDAC1 as playing a role in the emergence of HSCs during early zebrafish development and in their marrow during recovery from radiation injury. We are employing chromatin immunoprecipitation assays to identify genetic targets of HDAC1 in zebrafish leukemias, and hematopoietic transplantation assays to verify the effects of HDAC1 on HSC function. By characterizing HDAC1 in normal HSCs, insight will be gained into the mechanism by which HDACs contribute to leukemia development.

Research Papers in PubMed