Photo of Kristin White,  PhD

Kristin White, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital
Phone: (617) 726-4440
Fax: (617) 726-4453

Kristin White, PhD

Massachusetts General Hospital


  • Associate Professor, Dermatology, Harvard Medical School
  • Associate Biologist, Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital


Research Abstract

The overall goal of our research is to understand the regulation, execution, and role of apoptosis in the context of animal development, using the powerful genetic and molecular techniques available in Drosophila. In our years of research on this topic, my lab has contributed to major insights in the study of apoptosis and generated many of the tools used to examine this process. Our work has extended from the seminal characterization of the cluster of genes required for developmental apoptosis in Drosophila, through biochemical and genetic studies of the how these genes activate apoptosis and how their activity is regulated. These central regulators of Drosophila apoptosis were the first identified IAP inhibitors. The anti-apoptotic IAPs are often upregulated in cancer and contribute to treatment resistance. Chemotherapeutics based on IAP inhibitor proteins are now in clinical trials.

To maximize the impact of our work on the field, we now focus on an important and poorly understood aspect of cell death: how individual cells are selected to die or survive within a tissue. The groundwork for this research is our detailed genetic analysis of neural stem cell apoptosis during development. We have recently characterized how several developmentally important genes collaborate to regulate the death of neural stem cells. Additional transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms important for neural stem cell death and survival are currently under investigation. We expect our studies to provide important new insight into the regulation of cell death in development and disease.


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  • Li J, Lee YK, Fu W, Whalen AM, Estable MC, Raftery LA, White K, Weiner L, Brissette JL. Modeling by disruption and a selected-for partner for the nude locus. EMBO Rep. 2021. PubMed
  • Chavanet A, Hill KR, Jiménez-Andrade Y, Choo MK, White K, Park JM. Intracellular signaling modules linking DNA damage to secretome changes in senescent melanoma cells. Melanoma Res 2020; 30:336-347. PubMed
  • Harding K, White K. Decoupling developmental apoptosis and neuroblast proliferation in Drosophila. Dev Biol 2019. PubMed
  • Arya R, Gyonjyan S, Harding K, Sarkissian T, Li Y, Zhou L, White K. A Cut/cohesin axis alters the chromatin landscape to facilitate neuroblast death. Development 2019. PubMed
  • Arya R, White K. Cell death in development: Signaling pathways and core mechanisms. Semin Cell Dev Biol 2015. PubMed
  • Sarkissian T, Timmons A, Arya R, Abdelwahid E, White K. Detecting apoptosis in Drosophila tissues and cells. Methods 2014. PubMed
  • Perez B, Paquette N, Païdassi H, Zhai B, White K, Skvirsky R, Lacy-Hulbert A, Stuart LM. Apoptotic cells can deliver chemotherapeutics to engulfing macrophages and suppress inflammatory cytokine production. J Biol Chem 2012. PubMed
  • Tan Y, Yamada-Mabuchi M, Arya R, St Pierre S, Tang W, Tosa M, Brachmann C, White K. Coordinated expression of cell death genes regulates neuroblast apoptosis. Development 2011; 138:2197-206. PubMed
  • Abdelwahid E, Rolland S, Teng X, Conradt B, Hardwick JM, White K. Mitochondrial involvement in cell death of non-mammalian eukaryotes. Biochim Biophys Acta 2010. PubMed
  • Krieser RJ,White K. Inside an enigma: do mitochondria contribute to cell death in Drosophila? Apoptosis 2009; 14:961-8. PubMed
  • Moon NS,Di Stefano L,Morris EJ,Patel R,White K,Dyson NJ. E2F and p53 induce apoptosis independently during Drosophila development but intersect in the context of DNA damage. PLoS Genet 2008; 4:e1000153. PubMed
  • Challa M, Malladi S, Pellock BJ, Dresnek D, Varadarajan S, Yin YW, White K, Bratton SB. Drosophila Omi, a mitochondrial-localized IAP antagonist and proapoptotic serine protease. EMBO J 2007; 26:3144-56. PubMed
  • Krieser RJ, Moore FE, Dresnek D, Pellock BJ, Patel R, Huang A, Brachmann C, White K. The Drosophila homolog of the putative phosphatidylserine receptor functions to inhibit apoptosis. Development 2007; 134:2407-14. PubMed
  • Abdelwahid E, Yokokura T, Krieser RJ, Balasundaram S, Fowle WH, White K. Mitochondrial disruption in Drosophila apoptosis. Dev Cell 2007; 12:793-806. PubMed
  • Tseng AS, Tapon N, Kanda H, Cigizoglu S, Edelmann L, Pellock B, White K, Hariharan IK. Capicua regulates cell proliferation downstream of the receptor tyrosine kinase/ras signaling pathway. Curr Biol 2007; 17:728-33. PubMed
  • Pellock BJ, Buff E, White K, Hariharan IK. The Drosophila tumor suppressors Expanded and Merlin differentially regulate cell cycle exit, apoptosis, and Wingless signaling. Dev Biol 2007; 304:102-15. PubMed
  • Moon NS, Frolov MV, Kwon EJ, Di Stefano L, Dimova DK, Morris EJ, Taylor-Harding B, White K, Dyson NJ. Drosophila E2F1 has context-specific pro- and antiapoptotic properties during development. Dev Cell 2005; 9:463-75. PubMed
  • Kornbluth S, White K. Apoptosis in Drosophila: neither fish nor fowl (nor man, nor worm). J Cell Sci 2005; 118:1779-87. PubMed
  • Krieser RJ, White K. Engulfment mechanism of apoptotic cells. Curr Opin Cell Biol 2002; 14:734-8. PubMed
  • Wing JP, Schreader BA, Yokokura T, Wang Y, Andrews PS, Huseinovic N, Dong CK, Ogdahl JL, Schwartz LM, White K, Nambu JR. Drosophila Morgue is an F box/ubiquitin conjugase domain protein important for grim-reaper mediated apoptosis. Nat Cell Biol 2002; 4:451-6. PubMed
  • Peterson C, Carney GE, Taylor BJ, White K. reaper is required for neuroblast apoptosis during Drosophila development. Development 2002; 129:1467-76. PubMed
  • White K. Signaling survival: how axons rescue their glia. Dev Cell 2002; 2:128-30. PubMed
  • Wu JN, Nguyen N, Aghazarian M, Tan Y, Sevrioukov EA, Mabuchi M, Tang W, Monserrate JP, White K, Brachmann CB. grim promotes programmed cell death of Drosophila microchaete glial cells. Mech Dev 2010; 127:407-17. PubMed