Cheryl H Arrowsmith

Cheryl H Arrowsmith, PhD

Dr. Arrowsmith received her PhD from the University of Toronto in 1987 and post-doctoral training at Stanford University. In 1991 she started her independent research program at the Ontario Cancer Institute investigating how transcription factors recognize DNA to regulate gene expression and cell growth.
  • Epigenetics and Drug Discovery
    Epigenetics refers to heritable differences in phenotype that are due to mechanisms other than differences in DNA sequence. Epigenetics involves a dynamic interplay between DNA methylation, posttranslational modification of histones and other proteins, and noncoding RNA networks that control gene expression programs in normal and diseased cells.

    Mutations in chromatin regulatory genes and alterations of the cellular epigenome are prevalent in most cancers. Post-translational modifications (PTMs) on histone proteins serve as docking sites for chromatin-associated proteins, which in turn dictate dynamic conversion between transcriptionally active or silent chromatin states. The combinatorial nature of these modifications establishes a "histone code" which serves to expand the information present in the DNA-sequence of the genetic code. Lysine methylation is the most complex mark, and it plays a pivotal role in heterochromatin formation, transcriptional regulation and X-chromosome inactivation. Mutations or aberrant expression of proteins containing these domains often leads to deregulation of histone lysine methylation, leading to various diseases, most notably, cancer.

    We work with the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) to develop structure-based potent, selective, cell-active small molecule inhibitors of individual epigenetic regulatory proteins. These compounds, also referred to as chemical probes, are extremely valuable for understanding epigenetic signaling mechanisms in cells. Chemical probes are highly complementary to genetic methods and more closely mimic strategies for therapeutic translation. We are providing our epigenetic chemical probes as an Open Access resource to the biological research community to facilitate understanding of epigenetic mechanisms and to more rapidly identify and validate therapeutic targets for cancer and other diseases.
  • p53, ubiquitin signaling, and cancer
    p53 protein plays a major role in maintaining the integrity of the genome. One of its major roles in normal cells is the induction of cell cycle arrest or apoptosis in response DNA damage, by activating or repressing transcription of genes involved in these processes. Inactivation of the tumor suppressor p53 through deletion, mutation or interaction with proteins is a key step in over half of all human cancers. We are particularly interested in understanding, at the atomic levels, how various cellular proteins interact with and regulate the function of p53. Some of the proteins we have characterized include Replication Protein A (RPA), Ubiquitin Specific Protease 7 (USP7), Cullin 7 (Cul7) and Pirh2. Results from these studies have provided insight into the molecular mechanism of p53 regulation via protein-protein and protein-peptide interactions.

    Our work on ubiquitin-mediated regulation of p53 has led us to wider consideration of ubuquitylation pathways. Again in collaboration with the SGC we have studied proteins involved in chromatin ubiquitylation (UHRF1, UHRF2, Ring1b) and the entire E2 ubiquitin ligase and ubiquitin-like domain families. 
  • NMR spectroscopy and hybrid methods in structural biology
    NMR spectroscopy and x-ray crystallography are the two common techniques used to determine the structure of proteins. We have developed NMR analysis resources such as ABACUS, a protocol that analyzes networks of J-correlated spectral peptide-linked peaks and NOE spectral peaks combined with a fragment monte carlo (FMC) procedure to sequence-specifically assign the backbone and side-chain resonances of proteins. To date, this method had been used to solve over 85 protein structures deposited in the PDB. The ABACUS protocol is available for download here.

    We also employ x-ray crystallography, small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and chemical crosslinking as tools to characterize multidomain proteins and multiprotein complexes with hybrid computational strategies.

Related Links

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2017 Oct 13;:
Schapira M, Tyers M, Torrent M, Arrowsmith CH
J Med Chem. 2017 Oct 11;:
Harding RJ, Ferreira de Freitas R, Collins PM, Franzoni I, Ravichandran M, Ouyang H, Juarez-Ornelas KA, Lautens M, Schapira M, von Delft F, Santhakumar V, Arrowsmith CH
Cancer Cell. 2017 Oct 09;32(4):460-473.e6
Mello SS, Valente LJ, Raj N, Seoane JA, Flowers BM, McClendon J, Bieging-Rolett KT, Lee J, Ivanochko D, Kozak MM, Chang DT, Longacre TA, Koong AC, Arrowsmith CH, Kim SK, Vogel H, Wood LD, Hruban RH, Curtis C, Attardi LD
Cancer Res. 2017 Sep 15;:
Liang Y, Ahmed M, Guo H, Soares F, Hua JT, Gao S, Lu C, Poon C, Han W, Langstein J, Ekram MB, Li B, Davicioni E, Takhar M, Erho N, Karnes RJ, Chadwick D, van der Kwast T, Boutros PC, Arrowsmith CH, Feng FY, Joshua AM, Zoubeidi A, Cai C, He HH
Cell Stem Cell. 2017 Sep 07;21(3):411
Park NI, Guilhamon P, Desai K, McAdam RF, Langille E, O'Connor M, Lan X, Whetstone H, Coutinho FJ, Vanner RJ, Ling E, Prinos P, Lee L, Selvadurai H, Atwal G, Kushida M, Clarke ID, Voisin V, Cusimano MD, Bernstein M, Das S, Bader G, Arrowsmith CH,...
Nature. 2017 Aug 30;:
Lan X, Jörg DJ, Cavalli FMG, Richards LM, Nguyen LV, Vanner RJ, Guilhamon P, Lee L, Kushida MM, Pellacani D, Park NI, Coutinho FJ, Whetstone H, Selvadurai HJ, Che C, Luu B, Carles A, Moksa M, Rastegar N, Head R, Dolma S, Prinos P, Cusimano MD, Das S,...
Nat Chem Biol. 2017 Jul 18;13(8):922
He Y, Selvaraju S, Curtin ML, Jakob CG, Zhu H, Comess KM, Shaw B, The J, Lima-Fernandes E, Szewczyk MM, Cheng D, Klinge KL, Li HQ, Pliushchev M, Algire MA, Maag D, Guo J, Dietrich J, Panchal SC, Petros AM, Sweis RF, Torrent M, Bigelow LJ, Senisterra G,...
Cell Stem Cell. 2017 Jul 11;:
Park NI, Guilhamon P, Desai K, McAdam RF, Langille E, O'Connor M, Lan X, Whetstone H, Coutinho FJ, Vanner RJ, Ling E, Prinos P, Lee L, Selvadurai H, Atwal G, Kushida M, Clarke ID, Voisin V, Cusimano MD, Bernstein M, Das S, Bader G, Arrowsmith CH,...
Science. 2017 Jul 14;357(6347):168-175
Rocklin GJ, Chidyausiku TM, Goreshnik I, Ford A, Houliston S, Lemak A, Carter L, Ravichandran R, Mulligan VK, Chevalier A, Arrowsmith CH, Baker D
Bioorg Med Chem. 2017 Jun 19;:
Xiong Y, Li F, Babault N, Wu H, Dong A, Zeng H, Chen X, Arrowsmith CH, Brown PJ, Liu J, Vedadi M, Jin J


Professor, Department of Medical Biophysics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Chief Scientist, Structural Genomics Consortium, Toronto