Emery Bresnick

Contact Information

University of Wisconsin Comprehensive Cancer Center (UWCCC) 2022

Phone: (608) 265-6446
4157 WI Institute Medical Research


B.S., 1984, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, Biochemistry (honors)
B.A., 1984, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT, Anthropology
Ph.D., 1989, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Pharmacology (with William B. Pratt)
Postdoctoral Research, National Institutes of Health (with Gordon Hager and Gary Felsenfeld)


Gary Felsenfeld Professor of Cell and Regenerative Biology; Lowell and Gwendolyn Smythe Endowed Professor; Director, UW-Madison Blood Cancer Research Program

Research Description

UW-Madison Blood Research Program

Dr. Bresnick’s group discovered genetic mechanisms that govern development of the hematopoietic system. Transcriptional enhancers operating in these mechanisms are essential for hematopoiesis in humans and mice, embryonic development, and their disruption causes cancer and other blood diseases. Mechanistic studies unveiled new paradigms to explain hematopoietic stem cell generation, myeloid progenitor cell fate decisions and erythrocyte development. Aberrations in GATA2 expression resulting from germline mutation of one of these enhancers (+9.5) (or coding region mutations) cause “GATA2-deficiency syndrome”, which involves immunodeficiency, bone marrow failure and predisposition to develop myelodysplastic syndromes and acute myeloid leukemia. An additional enhancer discovered by the Bresnick group (-77) is expropriated by the leukemogenic protooncogene EVI1, thus defining a novel leukemogenic paradigm. Clinical centers screen for genetic variation in these enhancers to diagnose the etiology of blood diseases.

A major focus involves multi-disciplinary studies of pre-malignant states. We have identified GATA2-instigated genetic and protein networks that control hematopoiesis and are deciphering the importance of network components and how they function as integrated units in physiology and pathology. The network components include potential targets to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of blood diseases. We are testing the mechanistic and pathological consequences of dysregulating network components. Innovative screening systems have been developed to forge strategies to rescue defective networks, thus overcoming differentiation blockades that underlie leukemia and cytopenias.

Another  uses multiomics (quantitative proteomic, transcriptomic, metabolomic and metallomic) with cell  populations and single cells to understand myeloid and erythroid cell development and function in physiology, stress and disease. Of note are discoveries of GATA factor links to innate immune mechanisms, epigenetic mechanisms underlying cellular differentiation, heme as a determinant of genome function, RNA-regulatory exosome complex requirement to balance progenitor cell proliferation and differentiation and trace metal mechanisms that control cell survival and differentiation.

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