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Martha L. Peterson, PhD

Cancer Center Member

Senior Associate Vice President for Research

martha peterson

Research Programs:
Cancer Cell Biology and Signaling

Colleges & Departments:
College of Medicine, Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics

Faculty Rank:

Research Focus

Gene regulation at transcriptional and post-transcriptional levels has been the central focus of my research program. While transcription initiation begins the process of gene expression, the post-transcriptional steps of RNA splicing, cleavage polyadenylation, transport and stability all contribute to the type and final levels of protein that will be produced. In addition, these steps are coupled to each other, which can contribute to overall regulation. My lab has been studying several different model systems that allow us to address aspects of gene regulation including immunoglobulin gene expression during B lymphocyte development and, in collaboration with the lab of Brett Spear, liver development and disease. In liver, we have identified Zhx2 as a regulator of genes involved in lipid metabolism and genes that are misregulated during liver cancer.

Contact Information

800 Rose Street
207 Combs Building
Lexington, KY 40536-0096
United States



  1. Zinc fingers and homeoboxes 2 (Zhx2) regulates Major Urinary Protein gene expression in the mouse liver. Jiang, J, K.T. Creasy, J. Purnell, M.L. Peterson, B.T. Spear (2017) J. Biol. Chem. 292, 6765-6774. PMID: 28258223 PMCID:PMC5399123
  2. Coordination of RNA polymerase II pausing and 3’ end processing factor recruitment with alternative polyadenylation. Fusby, B. S. Kim, B. Erickson, H. Kim, M.L. Peterson and D.L. Bentley (2016) Mol. Cell. Biol. 36, 295-303. PMID: 26527620
  3. Zhx2 and Zbtb20: novel regulators of postnatal alpha-fetoprotein repression and their potential role in gene reactivation during liver cancer. Peterson ML, Ma C, Spear BT. Semin Cancer Biol. 2011 Feb;21(1):21-7. PubMed PMID: 21216289; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3313486.
  4. Immunoglobulin heavy chain gene regulation through polyadenylation and splicing competition. Peterson ML. Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2011 Jan-Feb;2(1):92-105. PubMed PMID: 21956971.
  5. Hereditary persistence of alpha-fetoprotein and H19 expression in liver of BALB/cJ mice is due to a retrovirus insertion in the Zhx2 gene. Perincheri S, Dingle RW, Peterson ML, Spear BT. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jan 11;102(2):396-401. PubMed PMID: 15626755; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC544306.
  6. Multiple features contribute to the use of the immunoglobulin M secretion-specific poly(A) signal but are not required for developmental regulation. Peterson ML, Bingham GL, Cowan C. Mol Cell Biol. 2006 Sep;26(18):6762-71. PubMed PMID: 16943419; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1592873.
  7. A non-immunoglobulin transgene and the endogenous immunoglobulin mu gene are coordinately regulated by alternative RNA processing during B-cell maturation. Seipelt RL, Spear BT, Snow EC, Peterson ML. Mol Cell Biol. 1998 Feb;18(2):1042-8. PubMed PMID: 9448001; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC108816.



B.A., Augustana College, Rock Island, IL, Biology/Chemistry 1979


Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Biochemistry 1984


Post-Doc, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Molecular Biology 1989