Sean M. Burgess

Sean Burgess

Position Title

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, College of Biological Sciences

139 Briggs Hall

Profile Introduction

The nucleus is a crowded environment yet chromosomes are able to undergo a dynamic range of motion through the regulation of gene expression and repair of DNA damage. This problem is particularly acute during meiosis when hundreds of programed double-strand breaks must be repaired at once without chromosomes becoming hopelessly entangled. This choreography culminates in the pairing, synapsis and crossing over between homologous chromosomes. These events in turn are essential for the separation of homologous chromosomes at MI. Research in my lab has focused on studying the chromosome events of meiosis prophase I in budding yeast for over 16 years, where our work and provided mechanistic insight into the progressive nature of forming increasingly stabilized. Recently we have incorporated the zebrafish model into our study of meiotic chromosome dynamic, and we are the first lab study the sexual dimorphic events that occur during meiotic prophase at the molecular level in this genetically tractable vertebrate species.

Research Interests

Meiotic chromosome dynamics

Work in my laboratory explores the dynamic chromosome events that occur during the process of meiosis and how these processes are integrated to achieve accurate chromosome segregation. Chromosome missegregation is one of the leading causes of birth defects in humans. We combine the use of a wide array of tools, including genetics, molecular biology, biochemistry and live-cell imaging using budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and zebrafish Danio rerio as a model system.

Grad Group Affiliations

  • Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology
  • Integrative Genetics and Genomics

Specialties / Focus

  • Cell Biology
  • Cell Division and the Cytoskeleton
  • Chromosome Biology
  • Chromosome Dynamics and Nuclear Function
  • Developmental Biology
  • Developmental Genetics
  • DNA Repair
  • Integrated Genetics and Genomics
  • Meiosis
  • Model Organism Genetics
  • Molecular Genetics
  • Reproductive Biology


  • MCB 164 Advanced Eukaryotic Genetics, Winter
  • MCB 121 Molecular Biology of Eukaryotic Cells, Spring


  • 139 Briggs Hall
    • Graduate students:  Ivan Olaya (Integrative Genetics and Genomics), and Masuda Sharifi (Biochemistry, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology); Postdoctoral Scholar: Trent Newman; Senior Researcher: Kelly Komachi; Undergraduates: Michelle Frees, Lakshmi Warrier, Mari Hoffman, Jackie Giang, Nadejda Butova.

Honors and Awards

  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science 2019
  • Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Young Investigator Award, 2000-2002
  • American Cancer Society Research Scholar 2001-2004
  • Fellow, Bunting Institute, Radcliffe College 1996-1998
  • Helen Hay Whitney Post-doctoral fellowship 1993-1996
  • UCSF Chancellor's Graduate Research Fellowship, 1992

    Professional Societies

    • Genetics Society of America
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)


    • 1987 BA Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology University of Colorado, Boulder
    • 1993 PhD Genetics University of California, San Francisco
    • 1999 Post-doc Molecular and Cellular Biology Harvard University


    Maxime P, Cruz B, Burgess S, Segal M R, Vazquez M, and Arsuaga J. (2019) The Rabl configuration limits topological entanglement of chromosomes in budding yeast. Scientific Reports volume 9, Article number: 6795 

    Blokhina YP, Nguyen AD, Draper BW, Burgess SM. (2019). The telomere bouquet is a hub where meiotic double-strand breaks, synapsis, and stable homolog juxtaposition are coordinated in the zebrafish, Danio rerio. PLoS Genetics 15(1):e1007730. 

    Chu, DB, Gromova, T, Newman AC, and Burgess. (2017). The Nucleoporin Nup2 Contains a Meiotic-Autonomous Region that Promotes the Dynamic Chromosome Events of Meiosis. GENETICS  vol. 206 1319-1337. 

    Chu, DB and Burgess, SM. (2016). A computational approach to estimating nondisjunction frequency in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. G3 January 8, 2016; g3.115.024380

    Schuster K, Leeke B, Meier M, Wang Y, Newman T, Burgess SM and Julia A. Horsfield. (2015). A neural crest origin for cohesinopathy heart defects.  Hum. Mol. Genet. 24 (24):7005-7016.

    Lui DY, Cahoon CK, Burgess SM (2013) Multiple Opposing Constraints Govern Chromosome Interactions during Meiosis. PLoS Genet 9(1): e1003197

    Ho, C-H and Burgess, SM (2011). Pch2 acts through Xrs2 and Tel1/ATM to modulate interhomolog bias and checkpoint function during meiosis. PLoS Genetics 7:e1002351

    Wu HY, Ho HC, Burgess SM (2010). Mek1 kinase governs outcomes of meiotic recombination and the checkpoint response. Current Biology. 20:1707-1.

    Mell, JC, Wienholz BL, Salem AA, and Burgess, SM (2008) Sites of recombination are local determinants of meiotic homolog pairing in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 179: 773-784.

    Mell, JC, Komachi, K, Hughes, O and Burgess, SM (2008) Cooperative interactions between pairs of homologous chromatids during meiosis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 179, 1125-1127

    Wu, H-Y and Burgess, S.M. (2006). Two distinct surveillance mechanisms monitor meiotic chromosome metabolism in budding yeast. Current Biol. 16, 2473-2479

    Lui DY, Peoples-Holst TL, Mell JC, Wu HY, Dean E, Burgess SM. (2006). Analysis of close stable homolog juxtaposition during meiosis in mutants of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 173:1207-22

    Wu, H-Y and Burgess, S.M. (2006) Ndj1, a telomere associated protein, promotes meiotic recombination in budding yeast. Mol. Cell. Biol. 26: 3683.

    Peoples-Holst, T.L. and Burgess, S.M. (2005). Multiple branches of the meiotic recombination pathway contribute independently to homolog pairing and stable juxtaposition during meiosis in budding yeast. Genes & Development 19: 863-874.

    Peoples TL, Dean EW, Gonzalez O, Lambourne L and SM Burgess. (2002). Close, stable homolog juxtaposition during meiosis in budding yeast is dependent on meiotic recombination, occurs independent of synapsis and is distinct from DSB-independent pairing contacts. Genes & Development. 16: 1682-1695.

    Burgess, SM (2002). Homologous chromosome associations and nuclear organization in the budding yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In: Homology Effects. Advances in Genetics (v46). Academic Press. San Diego:49-90