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Donald E. Ayer

Donald E. Ayer, PhD

Languages spoken: English

Academic Information

Departments Primary - Oncological Sciences

Academic Office Information

Research Interests

  • Myc
  • MondoA
  • Thioredoxin Interacting Protein
  • Transcription
  • Nutrient Sensing
  • Cancer Metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Glutaminolysis

Donald Ayer, PhD, is an investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and a professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah (U of U). He is a member of the Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation Program.

Ayer is a leader in the area of gene regulation and its role in normal and cancer cell growth. His research focuses on how cells regulate a transcription factor known as Myc, which is mutated in a wide variety of cancers. In normal cells, Myc is responsible for turning on the genes that are required for cell division. In cancer cells, Myc is "hyperactive" and causes cells to divide continuously, creating excess, unnecessary cells that form a tumor. Ayer's research group investigates how Myc functions in normal and cancer cells, and they work to increase the understanding of basic gene control mechanisms. This information could greatly improve cancer diagnosis methods and treatment.

Ayer, a native of Michigan, earned a PhD in chemistry and biochemistry from the University of Colorado. From 1989 to 1995, he received additional training under the direction of Robert Eisenman, PhD, a National Academy of Science member, at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. In 1995, he was recruited to the U of U and HCI.

Education History

Postdoctoral Fellowship Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Postdoctoral Fellow
University of Colorado
Undergraduate University of Michigan

Selected Publications

Journal Article

  1. Ahn B, Wan S, Jaiswal N, Vega RB, Ayer DE, Titchenell PM, Han X, Won KJ, Kelly DP (2019). MondoA drives muscle lipid accumulation and insulin resistance. JCI Insight, 5. (Read full article)
  2. Wilde BR, Ye Z, Lim TY, Ayer DE (2019). Cellular acidosis triggers human MondoA transcriptional activity by driving mitochondrial ATP production. Elife, 8. (Read full article)
  3. Ye Z, Ayer DE (2018). Ras Suppresses TXNIP Expression by Restricting Ribosome Translocation. Mol Cell Biol, 38(20). (Read full article)
  4. Sullivan WJ, Mullen PJ, Schmid EW, Flores A, Momcilovic M, Sharpley MS, Jelinek D, Whiteley AE, Maxwell MB, Wilde BR, Banerjee U, Coller HA, Shackelford DB, Braas D, Ayer DE, de Aguiar Vallim TQ, Lowry WE, Christofk HR (2018). Extracellular Matrix Remodeling Regulates Glucose Metabolism through TXNIP Destabilization. Cell, 175(1), 117-132.e21. (Read full article)
  5. Schaub FX, Dhankani V, Berger AC, Trivedi M, Richardson AB, Shaw R, Zhao W, Zhang X, Ventura A, Liu Y, Ayer DE, Hurlin PJ, Cherniack AD, Eisenman RN, Bernard B, Grandori C, Cancer Genome Atlas Network (2018). Pan-cancer Alterations of the MYC Oncogene and Its Proximal Network across the Cancer Genome Atlas. Cell Syst, 6(3), 282-300.e2. (Read full article)
  6. Wilde BR, Ayer DE (2015). Interactions between Myc and MondoA transcription factors in metabolism and tumourigenesis. Br J Cancer, 113(11), 1529-33. (Read full article)
  7. Shen L, OShea JM, Kaadige MR, Cunha S, Wilde BR, Cohen AL, Welm AL, Ayer DE (2015). Metabolic reprogramming in triple-negative breast cancer through Myc suppression of TXNIP. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 112(17), 5425-30. (Read full article)
  8. Carroll PA, Diolaiti D, McFerrin L, Gu H, Djukovic D, Du J, Cheng PF, Anderson S, Ulrich M, Hurley JB, Raftery D, Ayer DE, Eisenman RN (2015). Deregulated Myc requires MondoA/Mlx for metabolic reprogramming and tumorigenesis. Cancer Cell, 27(2), 271-85. (Read full article)
  9. Kaadige MR, Yang J, Wilde BR, Ayer DE (2015). MondoA-Mlx transcriptional activity is limited by mTOR-MondoA interaction. Mol Cell Biol, 35(1), 101-10. (Read full article)
  10. Bowman CJ, Ayer DE, Dynlacht BD (2014). Foxk proteins repress the initiation of starvation-induced atrophy and autophagy programs. Nat Cell Biol, 16(12), 1202-14. (Read full article)
  11. Parmenter TJ, Kleinschmidt M, Kinross KM, Bond ST, Li J, Kaadige MR, Rao A, Sheppard KE, Hugo W, Pupo GM, Pearson RB, McGee SL, Long GV, Scolyer RA, Rizos H, Lo RS, Cullinane C, Ayer DE, Ribas A, Johnstone RW, Hicks RJ, McArthur GA (2014). Response of BRAF-mutant melanoma to BRAF inhibition is mediated by a network of transcriptional regulators of glycolysis. Cancer Discov, 4(4), 423-33. (Read full article)
  12. OShea JM, Ayer DE (2013). Coordination of nutrient availability and utilization by MAX- and MLX-centered transcription networks. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med, 3(9), a014258. (Read full article)
  13. Han KS, Ayer DE (2013). MondoA senses adenine nucleotides: transcriptional induction of thioredoxin-interacting protein. Biochem J, 453(2), 209-18. (Read full article)
  14. Stoltzman CA, Kaadige MR, Peterson CW, Ayer DE (2011). MondoA senses non-glucose sugars: regulation of thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) and the hexose transport curb. J Biol Chem, 286(44), 38027-34. (Read full article)
  15. Peterson CW, Ayer DE (2011). An extended Myc network contributes to glucose homeostasis in cancer and diabetes. Front Biosci (Landmark Ed), 16, 2206-23. (Read full article)
  16. Chen JL, Merl D, Peterson CW, Wu J, Liu PY, Yin H, Muoio DM, Ayer DE, West M, Chi JT (2010). Lactic acidosis triggers starvation response with paradoxical induction of TXNIP through MondoA. PLoS Genet, 6(9), e1001093. (Read full article)
  17. Elgort MG, OShea JM, Jiang Y, Ayer DE (2010). Transcriptional and Translational Downregulation of Thioredoxin Interacting Protein Is Required for Metabolic Reprogramming during G(1). Genes Cancer, 1(9), 893-907. (Read full article)
  18. Kaadige MR, Elgort MG, Ayer DE (2010). Coordination of glucose and glutamine utilization by an expanded Myc network. Transcription, 1(1), 36-40. (Read full article)
  19. Sloan EJ, Ayer DE (2010). Myc, mondo, and metabolism. Genes Cancer, 1(6), 587-96. (Read full article)
  20. Peterson CW, Stoltzman CA, Sighinolfi MP, Han KS, Ayer DE (2010). Glucose controls nuclear accumulation, promoter binding, and transcriptional activity of the MondoA-Mlx heterodimer. Mol Cell Biol, 30(12), 2887-95. (Read full article)
  21. Kaadige MR, Looper RE, Kamalanaadhan S, Ayer DE (2009). Glutamine-dependent anapleurosis dictates glucose uptake and cell growth by regulating MondoA transcriptional activity. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 106(35), 14878-83. (Read full article)
  22. Silveira AC, Hurst DR, Vaidya KS, Ayer DE, Welch DR (2009). Over-expression of the BRMS1 family member SUDS3 does not suppress metastasis of human cancer cells. Cancer Lett, 276(1), 32-7. (Read full article)
  23. Stoltzman CA, Peterson CW, Breen KT, Muoio DM, Billin AN, Ayer DE (2008). Glucose sensing by MondoA:Mlx complexes: a role for hexokinases and direct regulation of thioredoxin-interacting protein expression. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 105(19), 6912-7. (Read full article)
  24. Hassig CA, Fleischer TC, Billin AN, Schreiber SL, Ayer DE (1997). Histone deacetylase activity is required for full transcriptional repression by mSin3A. Cell, 89(3), 341-7. (Read full article)
  25. Ayer DE, Lawrence QA, Eisenman RN (1995). Mad-Max transcriptional repression is mediated by ternary complex formation with mammalian homologs of yeast repressor Sin3. Cell, 80(5), 767-776.
  26. Ayer DE, Eisenman RN (1993). A switch from Myc:Max to Mad:Max heterocomplexes accompanies monocyte/macrophage differentiation. Genes Dev, 7(11), 2110-9. (Read full article)
  27. Ayer DE, Kretzner L, Eisenman RN (1993). Mad: a heterodimeric partner for Max that antagonizes Myc transcriptional activity. Cell, 72(2), 211-22. (Read full article)


  1. Billin AN, Ayer DE (2003). SID-Polyamide fusions: a potent method of regulating gene expression. U.S. Patent No. 6,528, 620. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  2. Eisenman RN, Hurlin P, Ayer DE (1997). Regulatory Proteins that Dimerize with MAD or MAX. U.S. Patent No. 5,624,818. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
  3. Blackwood EM, Eisenman RN, Ayer DE (1994). Method of Producing a MAD Polypeptide. U.S. Patent No. 5,302,519. Washington, D.C.:U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.