October 12, 2019

Tresor O. Mukiza Student Highlight

Tresor is a Ph.D. Student in his 5th year in the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department in the laboratory of Dr. Wayne Wahls.

He has a B.A. in Biology with a Chemistry minor from Hendrix College.

Research Interest Statement

The wrong number of chromosomes, called aneuploidy, is the leading cause of spontaneous pregnancy loss, intellectual disability, and congenital birth defects such as Down syndrome (trisomy 21). These aneuploidies stem from errors during meiosis in one of the parents, which generates their reproductive cells (sperm and eggs). A meiotic process called homologous recombination plays a crucial role in placing the correct number of chromosomes into reproductive cells.

My Ph.D. dissertation is focused on how meiotic recombination is correctly positioned in the genome, which is required for the faithful segregation of chromosomes. By studying five different classes of recombination hotspots in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe, I provided new insight into the underlying mechanisms. Diverse, cis-acting regulatory modules (different transcription factors and their binding sites) each function through shared chromatin remodeling pathways that help provide the basal recombination machinery access to its DNA substrates within chromatin. This work helps us to understand broadly conserved mechanisms that create reproductive cells, and it provides insight into the underlying causes of Down syndrome and miscarriage.

Something Notable about Time as a Graduate Student

I enjoyed the collaborative environment in the BCMB department where students and faculty members are willing to help each other.

Career Goals

I want to do a postdoctoral fellowship and continue doing research while also teaching.

Experiment or Technique You Would Most Like to Do

I love analyzing chromatin structure of specific chromosomal regions using micrococcal nuclease to digest non-nucleosomal DNA. Nicely phased nucleosomes flanked by nucleosome-depleted promoters or linker DNA make the most beautiful figures in my opinion. I would love to try to look at an entire genome chromatin structure in various conditions by coupling micrococcal nuclease and deep-sequencing the resulting mononucleosomal DNA.

Fun fact

I am from Rwanda and studied in French before coming to the USA for college. After the first week of classes in college, my chemistry teacher said we would have a quiz at the beginning of the next class period. So that next Monday, I found out that a quiz is a small test the hard way. Although I miserably failed, I will never forget what a quiz is. I love playing soccer, although my advanced age has considerably slowed me down.


Mukiza TO, Protacio RU, Davidson MK, Steiner WW, Wahls WP. Five DNA sequences activate meiotic recombination hotspot via chromatin remodeling. Genetics. 2019.

Ketkar A, Voehler M, Mukiza T, Eoff RL. Residues in the RecQ C-terminal Domain of the Human Werner Syndrome Helicase are involved in unwinding g-quadruplexes DNA. Journal of Biological Chemistry. 2017.


Best oral presentation by a graduate student at the American Society of Microbiology-South East Region, Little Rock, AR.

Academic All-America Team for Division III college soccer