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Bethany A. Koehntop, PhD

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Academic Information

Departments: Chemistry - Assistant Professor, Biochemistry - Adjunct Associate Professor

Academic Office Information

(801) 581-3186

606 Blackhawk


Research Interests

  • Error Control

Bethany Buck-Koehntop began her education at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where she graduated in 2000 with a B.S. in Chemistry. Her doctoral work was conducted under the guidance of Prof. Gianluigi Veglia at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities where she cultivated her interests in biophysical chemistry and structural biology by utilizing solution and solid-state NMR to characterize the structure, function and membrane topology of transmembrane proteins. After receiving her Ph.D. in 2005, she joined the laboratory of Prof. Peter E. Wright at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. During her postdoctoral training, she combined biochemical and structural elucidation methodologies to expand our understanding of nucleic acid recognition by zinc finger proteins. Of particular note, Bethany elucidated the first structure of a zinc finger protein bound to methylated DNA, illuminating the first molecular details for zinc finger recognition of this essential epigenetic mark. For this important work, Bethany was supported by an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship. In 2011, Bethany began as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah. The research in her independent laboratory is focused on utilizing parallel in vitro biophysical/biochemical and in cell genomics approaches to delineate the mechanisms by which the ZBTB family of methyl-CpG binding proteins (MBPs) recognize their cognate DNA and protein targets to regulate transcription in the cancerous state.

Research Statement

The primary focus of our research is to utilize a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates biophysical/biochemical, molecular biology and cellular biology strategies to investigate mechanistic questions in the area of transcriptional regulation.

We are particularly interested in applying these methodologies to investigate specialized transcription factors that recognize methylated DNA sequences. In mammals, DNA methylation in the context of CpG dinucleotides is a common mechanism for long-term transcriptional repression of genes. In recent years, aberrant alterations in the level of genomic DNA methylation has been directly associated with the early stages of cancer development. Current projects focus on identifying specific DNA targets for methyl-CpG binding proteins, structurally ascertaining their differential mode of DNA recognition, structurally characterizing protein/protein interactions, and evaluating how interpretation of the methylation signal triggers chromatin remodeling. This knowledge base will provide the foundation for evaluating how methyl-CpG DNA binding proteins can be utilized for future epigenetic cancer therapeutics.

Selected Publications

  1. Hodges AJ (03/13/2020). Cys2His2 Zinc Finger Methyl-CpG Binding Proteins: Getting a Handle on Methylated DNA. [Review]. 432, 1640-1660.
  2. Hudson NO Whitby FG Buck-Koehntop BA (12/21/2018). Structural insights into methylated DNA recognition by the C-terminal zinc fingers of the DNA reader protein ZBTB38. 293, 19835-19843.
  3. Hudson NO Buck-Koehntop BA (12/01/2018). Zinc Finger Readers of Methylated DNA. [Review]. 23, 2555.
  4. Wang S Al-Soodani AT Thomas GC Buck-Koehntop BA Woycechowsky KJ (07/01/2018). A Protein-Capsid-Based System for Cell Delivery of Selenocysteine. Bioconjug Chem, 29, 2332-2342.
  5. Pozner A Hudson NO Trewhella J Terooatea TW Miller SA Buck-Koehntop BA (02/01/2018). The C-Terminal Zinc Fingers of ZBTB38 are Novel Selective Readers of DNA Methylation. 430, 258-271.
  6. Pozner A (09/30/2016). Cell Specific Kaiso (ZBTB33) Regulation of Cell Cycle Through Cyclin D1 and Cyclin E1. 291(47), 24538-24550.
  7. Terooatea TW (08/22/2016). PatCh-Cap: Input Strategy for Improving Analysis of ChIP-exo Data and Beyond. 44(21), e159.
  8. Buck-Koehntop BA (01/16/2013). On How Mammalian Transcription Factors Recognize Methylated DNA. [Review]. 8(2), 131-137.
  9. Buck-Koehntop BA (09/18/2012). Molecular Basis for Recognition of Methylated and Specific DNA Sequences by the Zinc Finger Kaiso. 109(38), 15229-15234.
  10. Buck-Koehntop BA (03/23/2012). Kaiso uses all Three Zinc Fingers and Adjacent Sequence Motifs for High Affinity Binding to Sequence-specific and Methyl-CpG DNA Targets. 586, 734-739.