OU logo Department of Biological Sciences
search Biosciences only

Laura DiCaprio
Assistant Professor

Contact Information

 • Email:Laura DiCaprio
 • Website: Dicaprio Lab
 • Phone:740-593-2103
 • Office:171 Irvine Hall

I earned my B.S.in biology at Cornell University and my Ph.D. in Biology at the University of Alberta, Canada, studying patterns of meiotic recombination. My research background is primarily in genetics, meiosis, and DNA repair with a brief detour into the world of sensory neurobiology at the level of microanatomy. My focus and responsibilities now are on teaching, advising and curricular development. This includes teaching both lecture and laboratories in the introductory biology series, a seminar course on the Genetic and Hormonal Control of Gender, and laboratory genetics. I chair the biology curriculum committee, where decisions are made about individual student needs as well as broader programmatic curricular issues. I have also been working on a redesign of introductory biology laboratory.

Research Interests:

My Ph.D. dissertation project was a genetic study of patterns of meiotic recombination. In yeast, where all products of a particular meiosis can be recovered together, one can look inside a recombination event to determine its length, the number of chromatids involved, symmetry, and pattern of DNA mismatch repair.

Postdoctoral training at Oxford University was with Dr. Brian Cox, a yeast geneticist interested in DNA repair pathways. By monitoring changes in the size of DNA molecules synthesized in irradiated cells, one can follow the induction and repair of radiation damage. The differential behavior of repair-deficient mutants allows a glimpse into the sequence of events that occurs when radiation causes alterations in DNA.

At Roswell Park Memorial Institute, we studied a series of plasmids capable of autonomous replication in yeast. It was hypothesized that replication-competence of these plasmids was not dependent on a particular DNA sequence, but on the secondary structure imposed by inverted repeat sequences. Electron microscopy confirmed the presence of stem and loop structures indicative of inverted-repeats. In addition, I participated in a project cloning androgen-inducible genes in the mouse. Our interest was in understanding the genetic organization and coordinate expression of a family of related serine proteases whose production is modulated by hormone levels. To that end, we generated and isolated a c-DNA clone coding for the gamma subunit of Nerve Growth Factor, and used that in mapping and sequencing studies.

The Edison Animal Biotechnology Center in Athens, Ohio was engaged in work on the Bovine Growth Hormone, a complex protein with several physiological functions. Like most mammalian genes, it is divided into coding segments (exons) interrupted by intervening sequences. The construction of a series of plasmids that retain one or more exons was undertaken and is of interest for both practical and theoretical reasons. One can envision use for a synthetic hormone retaining some functions of the hormone, but not others. Theoretically, the separation of exons into functional units is interesting in light of speculation on the evolutionary origin of complex genes from the assembly of simpler units.

As a research associate in Dr. Ellengene Peterson's laboratory, my work took a totally new direction. This project focused on the morphology and spatial organization of hair cells in the vestibular system. In an effort to understand how information about head movement is detected and encoded by the vestibular sensory epithelium, we described and quantified structural features of hair cells likely to affect their mechanical performance, and determined the distribution of these properties over the surface of the epithelium. Techniques included tissue labeling and preparation, light microscopy (including Laser Scanning Confocal Microscopy), and scanning electron microscopy.

Representative Publications:
  • McAndrew, S.J., N.-Y. Chen, P. Wiehl, L. DiCaprio, J. Yun, T.E. Wagner, S. Okada, and J.J. Kopchick. 1991 Expression of truncated forms of the bovine growth hormone gene in cultured mouse cells. J. Biol. Chem. 266:20965-20969.

  • Howles, P.N., D.P. Dickinson, L. DiCaprio, M. Woodworth-Gutai, and K.W. Gross. 1984 Use of a cDNA recombinant for the gamma-subunit of mouse nerve growth factor to localize members of this multi-gene family near the TAM-1 locus on chromosome 7. Nucleic Acids Research 12(6):2791-2805.

  • DiCaprio, Laura and B.S. Cox. 1981 DNA synthesis in UV-irradiated yeast. Mutation Research 82:69-85.

  • DiCaprio, Laura and P.J. Hastings. 1976 Gene conversion and intragenic recombination at the SUP6 locus and the surrounding region in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Genetics 84:697-721.

  • DiCaprio, Laura and P.J. Hastings. 1976 Postmeiotic segregation in strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae unable to excise pyrimidine dimers. Mutation Research 37:137-140.