Mary C. Dasso, Ph.D.
Dr. Mary Dasso was named acting scientific director of the Division of Intramural Research in February 2020. She came to NICHD in 1992, became a tenure-track investigator in 1994, and received tenure in 2000. Previously, she was the associate scientific director for Budget and Administration.
Dr. Dasso is interested in mechanisms of chromosome segregation. Chromosome segregation errors cause aneuploidy, the condition of having an abnormal chromosome number. Birth defects, including Down syndrome, can result from aneuploidy arising during meiotic divisions, and aneuploidy arising during mitotic divisions is a hallmark of many solid tumors.
Dr. Dasso’s group discovered that the Ran GTPase, which was known as a key regulator of interphase nuclear-cytoplasmic transport, plays a pivotal role in spindle assembly and chromosome segregation. They showed that Ran carries out mitotic functions in a manner that is completely independent of nuclear transport. They further demonstrated that other components of the nuclear transport machinery are similarly re-purposed as cells divide to perform transport-independent activities that are essential for accurate chromosome segregation. In particular, nuclear pore complex proteins, called nucleoporins, localize to mitotic spindles and kinetochores; this localization is essential for proper spindle assembly and cell cycle progression.
Recently, Dr. Dasso’s group has developed CRISPR-based strategies for selective degradation of individual nucleoporins. They are now using these systems to examine not only the role of nucleoporins in mitotic chromosome segregation but also how nucleoporins contribute to NPC structure and assembly, to gene regulation, to RNA processing and export as well as to the trafficking of key nuclear components.
Dr. Dasso received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon Clark Honors College. She was a Marshall Scholar at the University of Cambridge, where she obtained her Ph.D. in biochemistry. She was a Damon Runyon Fellow at the University of California at San Diego, where she began to study cell cycle regulation.