CHAIR & Associate Professor of Biology

Spencer Hall 167A/ext. 1747

Cell Biology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology
Lab Website


Research in my laboratory focuses on understanding the underlying toxicity of human polyglutamine-containing proteins that are associated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases. The most well-studied of the polyglutamine diseases is Huntington’s Disease, whose genetic determinant is an expansion of a CAG triplet repeat in the gene encoding the Huntingtin protein.

To study how and why the resultant mutant proteins are toxic to cells, we express the human disease proteins in different tissues of the invertebrate model system, C. elegans. The ease of generating transgenic lines, the availability of mutant strains, and the relatively simple body plan of C. elegans makes it an especially useful tool to address our research questions.

My students and I approach our research questions using the following techniques:

  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Classical genetics and RNAi-mediated gene knockdown
  • Quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR)
  • Fluorescent reporters to monitor gene expression
  • Immunoblot analysis of protein accumulation
  • Biochemical and biophysical approaches to study protein solubility
  • Motility assays to measure toxicity


Kennedy Endowed Faculty Fellowship 
McCrickard Faculty Development Grant
NIH F32 National Research Service Award (NRSA), Postdoctoral Fellowship
Kennedy’s Disease Association Research Grant


*Christie, N., *Lee, A., Gray, A., Fay, H., Kikis, E.A. (2014) Novel Polyglutamine Model Uncouples Proteotoxicity from Aging. PLoS ONE 9(5): e96835 *authors contributed equally

Gidalevitz, T., Kikis, E.A., Morimoto, R.I. (2010) A cellular perspective on conformational disease: the role of genetic background and proteostasis networks Curr. Opin. Struct. Biol. 20(1): 23-32.

Kikis, E.A., Gidalevitz, T., Morimoto, R.I. (2010) Protein homeostasis in models of aging and age-related conformational disease Adv. Exp. Med. Biol. 694, 138-159.

Kikis, EA., Ben-Zvi, A., Morimoto, RI. “C. elegans as a Model System to Study the Biology of Protein Aggregation and Toxicity.” Protein Misfolding Diseases: Current and Emerging Principles and Therapies. Ed. Dobson, CM., Kelly, JW., and Ramirez-Alvarado, M. (2010).