Mair Churchill, PhD


Churchill_Mair 600x750

Contact Information: 

University of Colorado Denver
Department of Pharmacology
Mail Stop 8303, RC1-South
12801 East 17th Ave
Aurora CO 80045

Phone: (303) 724-3670
Fax: (303) 724-3663
Office: RC1-South, L18-6118

Research Interests

My lab is interested in understanding the molecular basis of essential processes that regulate gene expression. We use biophysical, biochemical methods, and structural methods, including X-ray crystallography. Our insights into these fundamental mechanisms will contribute to a better understanding and ability to regulate gene expression processes involved in human diseases and will assist in drug development efforts.

Our studies focus on the following questions:

  1. How is chromatin structure modulated for DNA-dependent processes?
  2. How do transcription factors and pioneering factors activate gene expression?

Current projects

Modulation of chromatin structure

The eukaryotic genome is packaged by histones into nucleosomes that together with non-histone proteins form higher order structures known as chromatin. nucleosome dynamicsThis chromatin structure must be dismantled for factors that carry out the processes of transcription, replication, DNA repair, and recombination to gain access to the DNA. Numerous protein-DNA interactions, protein-protein interactions, and covalent modifications actively regulate DNA accessibility, but the molecular mechanisms by which this dynamic remodeling of chromatin occurs are still not well understood. Therefore, we will need to understand chromatin assembly, disassembly, nucleosome remodeling and accessibility, and gene regulatory processes at the molecular level in order to achieve the ultimate goal of being able to modulate the activity of genes at will. 

Nucleosome dynamics play an important role in activated gene expression. We are studying the histone chaperone Asf1, because of its central role in chromatin dynamics. Asf1 binds to a dimer of histones H3 and H4, carrying the histones for post-translational modifications and hand-off to other histone chaperones in the cell. Chromatin assembly and disassembly systems are essential and fundamental to all DNA-dependent cellular functions, and are also important in human cancer and aging processes. 

HMGB proteinsHMGB proteinsThe structure of chromatin is also modulated by abundant proteins that bind DNA non-sequence-specifically. The high mobility group (HMGB) proteins are among the most abundant of these ‘non-sequence-specific proteins’ with the exception of histones in the typical human cell. We study the HMGB proteins to understand how they recognize DNA, form higher order structures in chromatin, and facilitate transcriptional activation of target genes. HMGB proteins bend DNA dramatically and participate in nucleosome positioning and mobility. 




Current Lab Members

First NameLast NameMiddle InitialDegreePosition
RubenRosas-Ospina BSGraduate Student


Previous Trainees

First NameLast NameMiddle InitialDegreePosition
PamelaDavid GerechtS.PhDResearch Associate
KimberlyDeckerJ.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
DouglasDonhamC.BSGraduate Student
VishantieDostalK.BSGraduate Student
LeahFeeleyR.BSGraduate Student
ToddGanglehoff BSGraduate Student
TyGouldA.W.PhDGraduate Student
JacobHerman PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
KristaHillK.BSGraduate Student
WallaceLiuH.BSGraduate Student
ChristopherMalarkeyS.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
SamuelMungalachettyP.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
SarahRoemerC.PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
LukeSmith BSSenior Professional Research Assistant
PrinceTiekuM.MSGraduate Student
WilliamWatsonT.PhDGraduate Student
ChristinaWysoczynskiL.PhDGraduate Student
DonaldZapien PhDPostdoctoral Fellow
YeyunZhou PhDPostdoctoral Fellow


​Postdoctoral positions available

A Postdoctoral Associate position in structural and molecular biology in the Department of Pharmacology, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Full Time 100% 


NIH-funded postdoctoral position available in the areas of structural biology in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, Colorado.

The laboratory studies structural and mechanistic aspects of gene regulatory systems in eukaryotes and bacterial pathogenesis using biochemical, biophysical, and x-ray crystallographic methods.
Candidates are expected to have a Ph.D. in Structural Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, Pharmacology, or have investigated a closely related field for their Ph.D. research project. Experience with basic biochemical or computational methodology is required.  Evidence of a strong commitment to research from strong publications and letters of reference is required.
Interested applicants are invited to send a Curriculum vitae and the names and contact information to Mair Churchill, Ph.D., MS 8303, PO Box 6511, Aurora, CO 80045, or email
The University of Colorado offers a full benefits package.  Information on University benefits programs, including eligibility, is located at the payroll and benefits site
The University of Colorado is committed to diversity and equality in education and employment

Predoctoral Research Programs



The lab is available for predoctoral research to UCD Ph.D. students in the Pharmacology, BSP, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Microbial pathogenesis, and MSTP training programs. Students from other University of Colorado campuses and programs may also be eligible. Please contact Dr. Mair Churchill directly for more information if interested. 

Summer Research Opportunities 


The lab is available for a summer research opportunuty for students majoring in Biology, Biochemistry, Chemistry, or a related field. Please contact Dr. Mair Churchill directly if interested before the middle of April each year.

​​ ​ Congratulations Vishantie and Mair on the most recent publication in Biochimica et Biophysica Acta-Gene Regulatory Mechanisms entitled, “Cytosine methylation of mitochondrial DNA at CpG sequences impacts transcription factor A DNA binding and transcription“. 2/2019


Congratulations Ying-Chih Chi (aka Thomas). Thomas is leaving us to begin another phase in his career at Columbia in the cyro-EM facility. 1/2019


Congratulations Vishantie Dostal. Vishantie successfully defended her Ph.D. and will be leaving us to begin her post-doctoral studies. 11/2018


Congratulations Mair on the most recent publication in Mol Microbiol entitled, “Mechanism of agonism and antagonism of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa quorum sensing regulator QscR with non-native ligands”.  2/2018 


We would like to welcome our newest graduate student Ruben to our lab. 7/2017


Welcome Ying-Chih Chi (aka Thomas).  Thomas will be joining us as a postdoc in October.  He received his PhD from UCDenver Anschutz in Changwei Liu Lab and also spent some time in Elan Eisenmeser Lab.  Welcome Thomas! 10/2016


Best of luck Wallace Liu.  Wallace is off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to begin his postdoc studies.  10/2016

Congradulations Wallace Liu and Yeyun Zhou on the most recent publication in eLife entitled, "The Cac1 subunit of histone chaperone CAF-1 organizes CAF-1-H3/H4 architecture and tetramerizes histones”.  9/2016


Welcome Ruben Rosas-Ospina.  Ruben is a Structural Biology rotation student for the fall of 2016. 8/2016

Welcome Joshua Abbott. Josh is a Structural Biology rotation student for the winter of 2015-2016. 11/2015 - 2/2016

Welcome Brett Dunn. Brett is a Pharmacology rotation student for the fall of 2015-2016. 8/2015 - 11/2015

Welcome Christal Davis.  Christal is a Structural Biology rotation student for the fall of 2015-2016.  8/2015 - 11/2015

Congratulations to Chris Malarkey on his paper publication in Acta Crystallogr D Biol Crystallogr.  7/2015

Welcome Kenneth Felsenstein. Kenny is our first MSTP rotation student for the summer of 2015. 6/2015 - 8/2015 

Welcome Yeyun Zhou.  Yeyun will begin her postdoc in our lab in October.  She received her PhD from Cornell University in the lab of Richard Cerione.  10/2014

Congratulations to Chrissy Wysoczynski on her paper publication in Cell Signal.  9/2014

Congratulations to Chris Malarkey on his paper publication in PNAS.  3/2014

Welcome Shravida Shetty. Shravida is our first Molecular Biology rotation student for fall of 2014. 8/2014 - 11/2014

Congratulations to Chris Malarkey. He will soon be leaving us to begin his new job as a faculty member at Regis University. 6/2014

Congratulations to Chrissy and Chris for our most recent publications in NAR and PNAS. 11/2014, 3/2014

We would like to welcome our newest graduate student Vishantie to our lab. 6/2013

Pharmacology (SOM)

CU Anschutz

Research I North

12800 East 19th Avenue


Aurora, CO 80045


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