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Court Lab

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We are located at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, MD USA.

Current Court Lab Recombineering team:

Don L. Court Ph.D.


Don received his B.A. in physical science from Colgate University in upstate New York in 1965 and started his Ph.D at the University of Rochester’s Department of Biology. His Ph.D. research was completed in 1970 at Stanford University. This research was with Dr. Allan Campbell studying gene regulation in bacteriophage ?. His postdoctoral research was completed at the University of California-Berkeley in the laboratory of Dr. Harrison Echols where Don continued his studies on gene regulation. He joined the NIH and the National Cancer Institute in 1972. In 1988, Don moved to the Frederick ABL-Basic Research Program as Chief of the Molecular Control and Genetics Section, and in 1999 became a part of the Center for Cancer Research of the National Cancer Institute. Don’s research interests over the years have been centered on studying the molecular interactions and the signaling that occur to regulate gene expression. He has exploited the genetic systems available in Escherichia coli, its plasmids, and bacteriophage  to understand (1) gene regulation at the levels of transcription initiation and elongation, translation initiation, and RNase processing (2) cell growth and cell cycle control signals, and (3) DNA and oligonucleotide recombination.

Nina Costantino B.S.


Nina is originally from western Maryland and received her B.S. from Hood College in Frederick. She worked for the Frederick Cancer Research Center in Chemical Carcinogensis for two years following graduation and then for a biotech company for two years. Nina joined Don's lab in 1986 as the senior research technician.

Lynn Thomason Ph.D.

Lynn obtained an undergraduate degree in General Studies in the Physical Sciences (1983) and a provisional teaching certificate (1984), both from Washington State University. She obtained both a M.S. (1987) and a Ph.D. (1993) from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, where she was a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Franklin W. Stahl in the Institute of Molecular Biology. Her thesis work demonstrated that under some conditions bacteriophage  circular monomer chromosomes are packaged in vivo. After additional time in the Stahl laboratory, in 1998 Lynn became a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Richard Calendar at University of California at Berkeley where, in collaboration with Dr. David Ow of the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S.D.A., she demonstrated activity of the bacteriophage PhiC31 site-specific recombination system in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. In 2001 Lynn went to the National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Maryland as a Cancer Research Award Trainee in Don’s lab, where she learned recombineering and helped further develop the technology. After completion of the CRTA program Lynn remained in Don’s lab and is presently employed as a Scientist II by SAIC-Frederick.

Gökhan Tolun Ph.D. 

Gökhan obtained his B.S. in Biology and M.Sc. in Biotechnology in Ankara, Turkey. After two years of being in a Ph.D. program back in Ankara, long enough to complete his Ph.D. coursework, he joined Rik Myers's group at the University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Dept. of Biochem. and Mol. Biol. in Miami/FL, restarting his Ph.D. program from scratch. There, he studied the homologous recombination system of phage lambda using biochemistry, and showed how the two proteins catalyzing this reaction work in concert. He also developed a real-time nuclease assay used by several other groups so far. For his first postdoc, he joined Jack Griffith's group at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying DNA replication, recombination and repair systems by molecular imaging using electron microscopy (EM). His main project provided mechanistic insights into understanding how the annealing is catalyzed during a single-strand annealing homologous recombination. To learn more about cryo-EM and structural biology, he joined Alasdair Steven's group at NIAMS/NIH in Bethesda/MD, studying the structures of macromolecular protein complexes, where he showed how phosphorylation affects the nucleic acid packaging in Hepatitis B virus, and reconstructed a high-resolution cryo-EM structure of a protein involved in macular degeneration in humans. Now at NCI-Frederick, he is continuing his postdoctoral training in Donald Court’s group, bringing his past biochemistry and imaging expertise into this department. In addition to contributing to several projects in the lab studying the details of DNA recombination in phage lambda, he is also working on a collaboration project to study the mechanistic details of transcription in bacteria using structural biology by cryo-EM.

Current students of the recombineering team:

    Katie Cascino : Post-Bac from Colgate University

    Anna Weaver:  Post-Bac from St. Mary's University


Former members of the recombineering team:

Terri Baker M.S.

Mikail Bubunenko Ph.D.

Simanti Datta Ph.D

Hilary Ellis Ph.D.

Xin-tian Li Ph.D.

Adam Parks Ph.D.

Jim Sawitzke Ph.D.

Helen Wilson Ph.D.

Daiguan Yu Ph.D.

Xiaomei Zhou Ph.D.

Former students of the recombineering team:

Nathan Brown

Tina DiTizio

Marina Hoashi

Jordan Jensen

Jessica Law

Michelle Miron

Kathleen Morrill

James Pan

Dana V. Shaw

Court lab summer 2015 (sans Don)

Anna Weaver, Kathleen Morrill, Jordan Jensen, Adam Parks, Katie Cascino, Lynn Thomason, Gokhan Tolun and Nina Costantino. 

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