Gene expression control in germ cells

The germline is an immortal cell lineage tasked with propagating the highest quality DNA. Germ cells regulate mutation and recombination rates, suppress selfish genetic elements like transposons, and produce gametes. The germline also gives rise to multiple somatic cell lineages to help it acquire nutrients and reproduce within a highly competitive and changing environment (the world). Perhaps to juggle its myriad functions, germ cells regulate genes differently than highly specialized somatic cells. Compared to most somatic cells, germ cell gene expression is more permissive but less robust. Most germ cells lack strong transcriptional activators and repressors and germ cell chromatin is more dispersed and accessible. We study how and why germ cells adopt this unique transcriptional state using a variety of tools we developed to purify and genetically manipulate germ cells in the experimentally tractable Drosophila ovary.

Developmental regulation of gene silencing

As somatic cells differentiate, they inhibit the transcription of many genes they will no longer need for their specialized purposes. This developmentally-regulated gene silencing is triggered and maintained by Polycomb-Group proteins. Beginning with genetic screens in flies, many Polycomb-Group proteins have been identified, but how they work together to silence the correct genes at the right time and place in development is poorly understood.

We developed a new model system, Drosophila nurse cell differentiation, to study these questions. Our system allows us to precisely manipulate Polycomb Group proteins and study their function during silencing initiation and maintenance using microscopy, molecular biology, and genomics. Using our nurse cell differentiation system, we discovered how two Polycomb proteins, Scm and Pcl, regulate the initiation of two types of gene silencing. Read more about it here


We are currently looking to hire researchers at all experience levels. Prior training in Drosophila or gene regulation is definitely not required. We will work with you to develop the skills you want to learn to help you advance your career. We study biology on every level from molecular interactions to cells, development, and evolution. We will help you find a project that fits your interests!

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and we will consider anyone that is excited to contribute to our research. To apply, send an email to Steve that highlights any lab experience and cool discoveries you have made and discusses why you are particularly interested in our research and joining our group.


We are located on the 4th floor of the Rosenstiel Basic Medical Sciences Center at Brandeis University.

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Rosenstiel 441

415 South St

Waltham, MA 02453

Paper List

  • DeLuca et al. (2020)Differentiating Drosophila female germ cells initiate Polycomb silencing by regulating PRC2-interacting proteins
  • DeLuca et al. (2018)Efficient Expression of Genes in the Drosophila Germline Using a UAS-Promoter Free of Interference by Hsp70 piRNAs
  • Yu et al. (2017)The Mitochondrial DNA Polymerase Promotes Elimination of Paternal Mitochondrial Genomes
  • Nagarkar-Jaiswal et al. (2015)A genetic toolkit for tagging intronic MiMIC containing genes
  • DeLuca et al. (2012)Barriers to Male Transmission of Mitochondrial DNA in Sperm Development
  • Foe et al. (2011)Ubiquitination of Cdc20 by the APC Occurs through an Intramolecular Mechanism
  • Xu et al. (2008)Manipulating the metazoan mitochondrial genome with targeted restriction enzymes
  • Au et al. (2008)Altered dosage and mislocalization of histone H3 and Cse4p lead to chromosome loss in Saccharomyces cerevisiae