Bethany Buck-Koehntop

Beth Buck-Koehntop


Assistant Professor

B.Sc., University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, 2000
Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 2005
American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, The Scripps Research Institute, 2007-2010


Phone: (801) 581-3186

Office: 1493 GH


Research Group

Biophysics at the U

Biological Chemistry Program

Activities & Awards

  • Sigma Chi Fraternity Outstanding Faculty Award, 2016
  • Extraordinary Faculty Achievement Recognition Award, 2016
  • Career Services Faculty Recognition Award, 2016
  • American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant, 2014
  • American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship, 2007

Research Interests

The primary focus of our research is to utilize a multidisciplinary approach incorporating structural biology, biophysics, biochemistry, molecular biology and cellular biology to investigate mechanistic questions in the area of transcriptional regulation. We are particularly interested in applying these methodologies to discern structure-function relationships for specialized transcription factors that recognize epigenetically modified methyl-CpG DNA sequences.

In eukaryotes, DNA methylation in the context of CpG dinucleotides is an essential epigenetic modification required for genomic stability, regulation of chromatin structure and long-term transcriptional silencing of genes. It is becoming increasingly evident that nearly all cancers exhibit aberrant alterations in DNA methylation preceding tumorigenesis. DNA methylation leads to alterations in gene transcription through two primary mechanisms: abrogating the ability of transcription factors to localize to their consensus sites or recruitment of specialized transcription factors that selectively recognize mCpG targets. These designated methyl-CpG binding proteins (MBPs) then promote recruitment of enzyme complexes that remodel chromatin and alter transcription. Thus, MBPs represent the functional intermediaries between reading DNA methylation and translating these epigenetic signals into a down-stream transcriptional response. However, detailed mechanistic insight for how MBPs globally mediate this essential cellular process remains to be elucidated.

Active areas of research in our laboratory include: 1) Utilizing a parallel in vitro biophysical/structural and in cell genomic approach to delineate the molecular mechanisms by which these proteins recognize their cognate DNA targets and regulate transcription in the cancerous state; 2) structural characterization of these MBP:DNA interactions to ascertain modes of  mCpG recognition for various MBPs; and 3) structural and biophysical characterizations of protein/protein interactions to begin evaluating how interpretation of the methylation signal triggers chromatin remodeling. Structure-function evaluation of MBPs with their interaction partners is critical for gaining mechanistic insight into the complex roles of these proteins in cancer epigenetics. It is anticipated that long-term this research will establish the basis for advancing therapeutic design directed toward key MBP regulatory networks/pathways.

Selected Publications

  • Pozner, A., Hudson, N. O., Trewhella, J., Terooatea, T. W., Miller, S. A., Buck-Koehntop, B. A. The C-terminal Zinc Fingers of ZBTB38 are Novel Selective Readers of DNA Methylation, J. Mol. Biol., 2018, 430 (3), 258-271 (
  • Pozner, A.; Terooatea, T. W.; Buck-Koehntop, B. A. Cell Specific Kaiso (ZBTB33) Regulation of Cell Cycle Through cyclin D1 and cyclin E1, J. Biol. Chem., 2016, 291 (47), 24538-24550.
  • Terooatea, T. W.; Pozner, A.; Buck-Koehntop, B. A. PAtCh-Cap: input strategy for improving analysis of ChIP-exo data sets and beyond.Nucleic Acids Res., 2016, 44 (21), e159.
  • Buck-Koehntop, B. A.; Defossez, P.-A. On how Mammalian Transcription Factors Recognize Methylated DNA. Epigenetics2013, 8, 131-137
  • Buck-Koehntop, B. A.; Stanfield, R. L.; Ekiert, D. C.; Martinez-Yamout, M. A.; Dyson, H. J.; Wilson, I. A.; Wright, P. E. Molecular Basis for Recognition of Methylated and Specific DNA Sequences by the Zinc Finger Protein Kaiso. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci.2012, 109, 15229-15234.
  • Buck-Koehntop, B. A.; Martinez-Yamout, M. A.; Dyson, H. J.; Wright, P. E. Kaiso uses all Three Zinc Fingers and Adjacent Sequence Motifs for High Affinity Binding to Sequence-specific and Methyl-CpG DNA Targets. FEBS Lett.2012, 586, 734-739.
Last Updated: 6/21/18