You are here: Home Faculty Gary R. Kunkel
Document Actions
Gary R. Kunkel

Gary R. Kunkel

Associate Professor

Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics

Room 406A Biochemistry & Biophysics Building
2128 TAMU

College Station , TX 77843-2128
Office Phone: (979) 845-6257


  1. B.S., University of California, Davis, 1975
  2. Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 1981
  3. Postdoc., Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, 1982-88


Research Interests:

Activation of Transcription at Vertebrate Gene Promoters

An important step to control the amount of RNA or protein in particular types of cells is at the level of transcription of genes. Our lab studies a multifunctional vertebrate transcriptional activator protein known as ZNF143. This protein binds to SPH sites within promoters of many genes that produce small stable RNAs (e.g., snRNAs and others) PLUS probably over 2000 promoters of genes that produce mRNAs. Two separate activation domains in this protein direct its action at small RNA vs. mRNA gene promoters. We are using zebrafish as a vertebrate model organism to study the roles of ZNF143 and a partner coactivator protein called CHD8 during development. Both proteins are required during brain development. Furthermore, knockdown of ZNF143 in developing embryos inhibits proper heart morphogenesis. In vivo studies are coupled with biochemical and molecular biology methods to decipher the mechanisms by which these proteins stimulate transcription of various types of genes.

Selected Publications:

Halbig, K.M., Lekven, A.C., Kunkel, G.R. 2012. The transcriptional activator ZNF143 is essential for normal development in zebrafish. BMC Mol. Biol. 13: 3

Hernández-Negrete, I., Sala-Newby, G.B., Perl, A., Kunkel, G.R., Newby, A.C., Bond, M. 2011. Adhesion-dependent Skp2 transcription requires selenocysteine tRNA gene transcription-activating factor (STAF). Biochem. J. 436: 133-43

Curran, K., Lister, J.A., Kunkel, G.R., Prendergast, A., Parichy, D.M., Raible, D.W. 2010. Interplay between Foxd3 and Mitf regulates cell fate plasticity in the zebrafish neural crest. Dev. Biol. 344: 107-18

Halbig, K.M., Lekven, A.C., and Kunkel, G.R. 2008. Zebrafish U6 small nuclear RNA gene promoters contain a SPH element in an unusual location. Gene 421: 89-94.

Barski, O.A., Papusha, V.Z., Kunkel, G.R., and Gabbay, K.H. 2004. Regulation of aldehyde reductase expression by STAF and CHOP. Genomics 83: 119-129.

Domitrovich, A.M. and Kunkel, G.R. 2003. Multiple, dispersed human U6 small nuclear RNA genes with varied transcriptional efficiencies. Nucleic Acids Res 31: 2344-2352.

Mach, C.M., Hargrove, B.W., and Kunkel, G.R. 2002. The Small RNA gene activator protein, SphI postoctamer homology-binding factor/selenocysteine tRNA gene transcription activating factor, stimulates transcription of the human interferon regulatory factor-3 gene. J Biol Chem 277: 4853-4858.

Hargrove, B.W., Bhattacharyya, A., Domitrovich, A.M., Kapler, G.M., Kirk, K., Shippen, D.E., and Kunkel, G.R. 1999. Identification of an essential proximal sequence element in the promoter of the telomerase RNA gene of Tetrahymena thermophila. Nucleic Acids Res 27: 4269-4275.

Rincon, J.C., Engler, S.K., Hargrove, B.W., and Kunkel, G.R. 1998. Molecular cloning of a cDNA encoding human SPH-binding factor, a conserved protein that binds to the enhancer-like region of the U6 small nuclear RNA gene promoter. Nucleic Acids Res 26: 4846-4852.

Kunkel, G.R. and Hixson, J.D. 1998. The distal elements, OCT and SPH, stimulate the formation of preinitiation complexes on a human U6 snRNA gene promoter in vitro. Nucleic Acids Res 26: 1536-1543.


Research Interests:

Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Genetics:

Activation of  Transcription at Vertebrate Gene Promoters


GENE 481 Genetics I Seminar
GENE 631 Biochemical Genetics
GENE 431 Molecular Genetics