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Nutrition Obesity Research Center at Harvard

Core Facilities

Genomics Core

Frederick M. Ausubel, Ph.D.
Principle Investigator

Frederick M. Ausubel, Ph.D.The goal of the Genomics Core Facility is to facilitate the implementation of advances in molecular biology and genomics technology in nutrition research by providing NORC investigators expert consultation, training, and selected services in molecular biology and genomics techniques.

In recent years, rapid advances in molecular biology technologies have unified as well as revolutionized the biological and medical sciences. Perusal of the research activities of NORC investigators makes it apparent that the acquisition of sophisticated molecular biological techniques is essential for the continued success of various aspects of the NORC. Generally, these techniques include the identification and characterization of signal transduction pathways involved in the expression of a variety of genes mediating cellular metabolism and the immune response relating to nutrition metabolism, cancer biology, the cellular biology and genetics of nutrients, infectious disease, lipid metabolism and cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Recombinant DNA and genomics technologies are not only highly sophisticated but also change rapidly. The Molecular Biology and Genomics Core has provided and will continue to provide up-to-date services, training and facilities in a variety of technologies listed below that NORC investigators wish to establish in their laboratories. Importantly, by providing training in these techniques, rather than simply providing a service, the Genomics Core has been and will continue to be catalytic; i.e., once an investigator feels comfortable with molecular techniques learned in the Core, he/she can begin to establish these techniques in his/her own laboratory.

An important new feature of the Genomics Core is the addition of services and training in the rapidly growing field of genomic research. Specifically, the Core now provides DNA microarray and bioinformatics services to NORC investigators. DNA microarrays are produced by spotting cDNAs, PCR products, or synthetic oligonucleotides (from 50 bp to several kb) on specially coated microscope slides using a highly accurate robot that can deposit as many as 30,000 discrete spots on a single slide. The glass sides are hybridized with fluorescent-labeled cDNA probes and then analyzed with a laser scanner that transfers the hybridization data directly to a relational database.

Typically, microarrays are utilized for whole genome transcriptional profiling analysis and have led to new insights into the process of signal transduction. The microarray facility is sponsored jointly by the NORC Genomics Core and the Department of Molecular Biology at MGH. In addition to providing the highly sophisticated hardware and software required for microarray experiments, the Core provides expert training in bioinformatic analysis, which is required to interpret the microarray-generated transcriptional profiling data. Because of the high level of expertise involved in microarray technology, a centralized shared facility is a cost effective way to make the technology widely available.

In general, the Genomics Core takes advantage of the extensive expertise and facilities of the Core Director (Dr. Ausubel) and Co-Directors (Drs. Kingston and Oettinger) who are members of the Department of Molecular Biology at MGH and Professors in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Drs Ausubel and Kingston are well known as two of the founders and editors of Current Protocols in Molecular Biology (CPMB), a widely used laboratory manual published by John Wiley & Sons that provides quarterly updates on a subscription basis. More than 32,000 manuals have been sold world-wide since it was published in 1987 and there are approximately 10,000 current subscribers to the updating service. CD and on-line versions of CPMB are also available. In addition to being co-editors of CPMB, Drs. Ausubel and Kingston have both taught summer laboratory courses at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on molecular biology and DNA-protein interactions techniques, respectively, which helped them design and teach NORC Molecular Biology training courses and workshops.

The goals of the Genomics Core Facility are to:

(1) Provide consultative services concerning the applications of molecular biology and genomics techniques to specific problems in nutrition research.

(2) Train NORC investigators in molecular biology and techniques including:

  • DNA, RNA isolation
  • Cloning DNA
  • Labeling DNA and RNA
  • DNA and RNA blotting
  • Transfection of mammalian cells
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • in situ hybridization
  • Bioinformatics analysis
  • Restriction mapping
  • Cloning cDNAs
  • Screening libraries
  • Protein-DNA interactions
  • RNA quantitation
  • Mutagenesis of cloned DNA
  • DNA sequencing
  • DNA micro-array preparation
  • Mining microarray data

(3) Provide space, supplies, and specialized equipment such as the DNA micro-dot arrayer and the fluorescent scanner for carrying out the above procedures.

(4) Provide oligonucleotide synthesis, protein sequencing, peptide synthesis, and DNA microarray preparation services.

(5) Organize periodic intensive training courses in genomics techniques consisting of lectures and laboratory exercises.

(6) Organize short courses on specific laboratory techniques on an ad hoc basis.

For more information about this core, please contact:

Frederick M. Ausubel, Ph.D.
Department of Genetics
Massachusetts General Hospital
Richard B. Simches Research Building
185 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Phone: 617-726-5969
Fax: 617-726-5949


Dr. Ausubel’s biographical sketch is linked here.

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Updated 1/25/2008