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For her dissertation research, Dr. Caroline Telles, focused on determining the interaction mediated by sequence dependent curved DNA upstream of the promoter with the alpha subunit of Bacillus subtilis. This study plays a pivotal role in the regulation of gene expression in many biological processes involving epigenetic mechanisms. The increasing awareness of the potential role of DNA methylation, histone modification, chromatin structure, siRNA and gene splicing has spawned the development of diagnostic and therapeutic approaches using epigenetics.

One of her research projects focused on the molecular genetics of the MYST-family histone acetyltransferases (HATs) in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Histone acetyltransferases (HATs) have important roles in regulating cell function through the post-translational modification of lysine residues in histones and other non-histone proteins. The budding yeast enzyme, Esa1, is a member of the MYST family of HATs, a family conserved from yeast to humans. Esa1 is the only essential HAT in budding yeast and comprises of the catalytic subunit of two multisubunit complexes, NuA4 and Piccolo-NuA4 (picNuA4). Esa1 has been implicated in diverse chromatin-mediated processes, transcriptional silencing, and DNA damage repair.

Based on our genetic, molecular, and biochemical results, we speculate a model analogous to the molecular switch cycle of the Ras family GTPases.  We propose that Esa1 positively regulates essential functions of NuA 4 in the Co-A bound state but not in the Ac-CoA bound-bound state. This cycle between active and inactive states is facilitated by acetylation of lysine residues in the histones. The scope and range of epigenetic research is the new “Lamarckism” in this era.  We envision that the etiological link between epigenetics and cancer will provide intriguing new insights in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer and other neurological disorders.


Brianna Thomas and Caroline Telles, 2015, Mutations in the Esa1 Histone Acetyltransferase Gene Alters Post-Translation Modification, The Society of Toxicology 55th Annual Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, March 13-17, 2015.


Another research project focuses on the use of natural products as therapeutic agents. The emergence of antibiotic-resistance bacteria during the recent years has sparked an interest in antimicrobial properties of medicinal plants.  Thus, the mechanism by which medicinal plants kill bacteria is certainly an important topic that merits further research. Crude Kola extracts contain a putative phytochemical compound with a variety of bioactivity.  Dr. Telles’ research group is using analytical chemistry coupled to antimicrobial screening to identify the bioactive compounds responsible for the antimicrobial activity.  The goal is to determine the chemotaxonomic significance of secondary metabolites and determine their mechanism of action in inhibiting microbial growth.

Brianna Thomas and Caroline Telles (2017) The Antimicrobial Property of the Acetone Extract of Cola acuminate,The Annual Meeting of Experimental Biology. April 22-26, 2017 Chicago, IL


Student Training and Mentoring

Dr. Telles has enhanced the research infrastructure at Southern University by mentoring several undergraduate students. Her students have made presentations at scientific conferences and won a myriad of awards for their research. Under her tutelage, three of these students conducted research for their Honors’ Thesis.


Caroline M. Telles, Society of Toxicology (SOT) mentor award; Janeisha McGovern, SOT mentee award, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB); Brianna Thomas, SOT mentee award, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) award, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) award.