Jeff Roberts
Robert J. Appel Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology

Jeff Roberts




Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics
207 Biotechnology Building
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-2703


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Department Profile


Jeff Roberts is the Robert J. Appel Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology. He obtained his Ph.D. in biophysics from Harvard University in 1970 and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England from 1970-71. He returned to Harvard as a Junior Fellow of the Harvard Society of Fellows in 1971 before joining the Cornell faculty in 1974.

Research Description

We study DNA transcription by the enzyme RNA polymerase, and particularly the elongation process, which is regulated to synchronize the appearance of RNA with its utilization by the cell. Our major focus is on transcription antiterminators, genetic regulatory proteins that interfere with the ability of RNA polymerase to recognize stop signals that otherwise prevent downstream genes from being expressed. Antiterminators exemplify a class of regulatory proteins associated with RNA polymerase that affect stages in the maturation of messenger RNA molecules in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, through modification of the basic enzymatic properties of RNA polymerase. The system we use is that of the bacteriophage lambda late gene regulator Q, whose activity in a purified transcription system is revealing in detail fundamental aspects of the processes of elongation and termination, and of the interaction of transcription proteins with DNA.

Selected Publications

Roberts, J.W. (2006).  “RNA Polymerase, A Scrunching Machine” Science 314, 1097-1098.  [A Perspective

Nickels, B.E., Roberts, C.W., Roberts, J.W., and Hochschild, A. (2006).  “RNA-Mediated Destabilization of the s70 Region 4/b Flap Interaction Facilitates Engagement of RNA Polymerase by the Q Antiterminator”  Mol. Cell. 24, 457-468

Santangelo, T.J. and Roberts, J.W., (2004).  “Forward Translocation Is the Natural Pathway of RNA Release at an Intrinsic Terminator”.  Mol. Cell 14, 117-126.

Park, J.-S. & J.W. Roberts (2006).  “Role of DNA Bubble Rewinding in Enzymatic Transcription Termination”  Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 103, 4870-4875

Guo, Jingshu and Roberts, Jeffrey W. (2004).  “DNA Binding Regions of Q Proteins of Phages land f80”  J. Bacteriology 186, 3599-3608