Douglass J. Forbes, Ph.D.

Full Professor
Cell and Developmental Biology 0347
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
City, State, Zip
La Jolla, CA 92093-0347
(619) 972-6493
Research Field
Cell Biology
Award Year


The focus of the research in my laboratory is the eukaryotic nucleus: its structure and function. A major interest of the laboratory is the nuclear pore, a large macromolecular complex of 120 million daltons which spans the nuclear membranes. All communication between the nucleus and cytoplasm occurs through this nuclear pore complex. In vivo, the pore actively imports nuclear proteins, while exporting mRNA, tRNA, snRNA, and ribosomal precursors. We study: (1) assembly of the nucleus itself, (2) assembly of nuclear pores, (3) the regulation of these processes, and (4) the mechanism of nuclear transport, including mRNA export, protein export, and protein import. Using antibodies we can immunodeplete the assembly extract of individual nuclear pore proteins, then reconstitute nuclei which lack that protein. Such “designer” nuclei can be tested for alterations in nuclear pore structure, pore function, or pore assembly. We recently discovered the protein responsible for initiating pore assembly at the nucleus (Rasala et al, 2006, 2008). This protein, ELYS, acts by binding to chromatin at AT-rich sequences and recruiting the key structural subunit of the nuclear pore to these sites to initiate nuclear pore assembly. With experiments of this type, we hope to molecularly dissect and elucidate the gates that “guard the fortress” of the genome. A second major interest of the laboratory involves understanding assembly of the eukaryotic nucleus itself. Specifically, we are focused on how nuclear assembly is regulated such that nuclear membranes form around chromatin in a spatially precise manner and, once formed, how the nuclear membranes acquire nuclear pores. We have shown that an abundant cellular protein, importin beta, acts in mitosis to negatively regulate both nuclear membrane fusion and nuclear pore assembly (Harel et al, M.B.C, 2003). The small GTPase Ran acts as the counteracting positive regulator. We believe that importin beta acts as a global regulator of cellular events involving the genome, including those controlling nuclear import, spindle formation, correct nuclear membrane assembly, and nuclear pore assembly.