Graham Dellaire



Related information

Phone: 902-494-4730
Fax: 902-494-2519
Mailing Address: 
Dalhousie University
Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building, 11-G1
5850 College Street
PO Box 15000
Halifax Nova Scotia Canada B3H 4R2

Professor (Pathology)

  • Departments of Pathology and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
  • Cameron Research Scientist in Cancer Biology
  • Department member since 2007

Research topics

  • Role of Nuclear Structure in Tumour Suppression
  • Genome Stability and DNA repair
  • CRISPR-based gene editing
  • Mechanisms of Chemotherapy Resistance
  • Novel Zebrafish-based animal models of Cancer
  • Cancer Biomarker Discovery
  • Tumour-drug Interactions and Personalized Therapy

Research areas

Nuclear Structure and Cancer Biology
Graduate student position available. Apply now.

Genomic instability contributes to both the development and progression of cancer. Mutations affecting the detection or repair of DNA damage can dramatically increase genome instability and therefore cancer susceptibility.

A key question in cancer biology is how the cell detects and repairs DNA damage?
The Dellaire Lab is studying how the structure of the mammalian nucleus, including chromatin and the various nuclear domains, contributes to DNA damage surveillance, signaling and repair.

Figure 1. Nuclear Subdomains Implicated in DNA Repair and Tumour Suppression


Promyelocytic leukemia nuclear bodies (PML NBs): novel biomarkers for the cellular response to DNA damage

Finding and repairing damaged DNA among the 3 billion base pairs of the human genome is an astonishing cellular feat, the complexity of which we are only beginning to appreciate.

DNA in human cells exists as a nucleoprotein complex known as chromatin, which is in turn compacted and folded into individual chromosomes that form distinct territories in the nucleus. It is within this context that DNA damage must be detected and repaired.

An early event in signaling DNA damage is the modification of chromatin at a DNA double-strand break (DSB) by phosphorylation of the histone variant H2A.X by the kinases ATM, ATR and DNA-PK. DNA damage also triggers the global decondensation of chromatin, mediated partly by the ATM kinase, as well as the structural reorganisation of several subnuclear compartments including nucleoli, Cajal bodies and promyelocytic leukemia nuclear bodies (PML NBs)(Dellaire and Bazett-Jones, 2004).

In the Delaire Laboratory, we are interested in characterizing how DNA damage affects the structure and function of the mammalian nucleus with the hope of determining signature changes in nuclear architecture that can be used as biomarkers for cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment. We use a combination of biochemistry, molecular biology and molecular imaging approaches to determine how changes in nuclear structure contribute to DNA repair.

Recent work from the Dellaire Laboratory has identified the PML NB as a possible DNA damage sensor, which can respond to ionizing radiation and chemotherapy treatments (Dellaire and Bazett-Jones, 2004; Dellaire et al., 2006). Currently, we are addressing how PML NBs may contribute to DNA damage surveillance, signaling and repair. These studies will provide needed insight into the role of these domains in tumour suppression and may provide a useful paradigm for the study of the role of other nuclear domains in oncogenesis.

Xenotransplantation in zebrafish as a human tumour model

Relevant human tumour models are needed more than ever to accelerate the translation of basic cancer research to the clinic. In collaboration with pediatric oncologist Dr. Jason Berman (Dept. of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University and IWK Hospital, Halifax), the Dellaire Lab has been developing the novel human tumour animal model based on the xenotransplantation of human tumour cells in the zebrafish embryo.

Current applications of this tumour model include:

  1. The study of chemotherapy resistance in breast cancer
    (Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - Atlantic)
  2. The study of tumour metastasis in pediatric sarcomas
    (C17 Council)
  3. Drug screening for novel chemotherapeutics targeting leukemia
    (CIHR/NSERC Collaborative Health Research Program)

Figure 2. Xenotransplantation of human leukemia cells in the transgenic "Fli-GFP" zebrafish embryo

Twenty-four-hour post-fertilization Fli-GFP transgenic zebrafish embryos expressing the green fluorescent protein to highlight their blood vessels were microinjected with 50 leukemia cells (labeled in red) within the yolk sac (white arrow).

A zebrafish embryo is shown by phase contrast (top panel) and fluorescence microscopy (bottom panel) at 24 hours post-injection. Red fluorescent masses of leukemia cells can be seen in the tail and head of the embryo indicating that the leukemia cells can enter the blood stream and migrate via the vasculature to distant sites from the injection site.

Graduate students

Livia Anthes MSc (Pathology)
Kathleen Attwood PhD
Dudley Chung MSc (Pathology)
Sara Lahsaee PhD (Pathology)

Postdoctoral fellows

Jordan Pinder Dalhousie University
Jayme Salsman Dalhousie University

Lab Personnel

Joyce Chew Technician (shared with Dobson Lab)


  • Bentley, V., C. Veinotte, D. Corkery, J. Pinder, M.A. Leblanc, K. Bedard, A.P Weng, J.N. Berman, and G. Dellaire, (2015) Focused chemical genomics using zebrafish xenotransplantation as a preclinical therapeutic platform for T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia Haematologica 100(1):70-6 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Sidik, S., J. Salsman, G. Dellaire, and J. Rohde, (2015) Shigella infection interferes with SUMOylation and increases PML-NB number PLoS ONE 10(4):e0122585 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Kalousi, A., A-S. Hoffbeck, P. Selemenakis, J. Pinder, K.I. Savage, K.K. Khanna, L. Brino, G. Dellaire, V.G. Gorgoulis, and E. Soutoglou , (2015) The nuclear oncogene SET controls DNA repair by KAP1 and HP1 retention on chromatin Cell Reports 11(1):149-63 [PubMed][Article]
  • Corkery, D.P., L. Meunier , C. Le Page , D.M. Provencher , A-M Mes-Masson and G. Dellaire, (2015) PRP4K is a novel Her2-regulated biomarker of taxane sensitivity Cell Cycle14(7):1059-69 [PubMed] [Article]
  • El-Naggar, A.M., C.J Veinotte, H. Cheng, T.G.P. Grunewald, G. Luca Negri, S. Prakash Somasekharan, D.P. Corkery, F. Tirode, J. Mathers, D. Khan, A.H Kyle, J.H Baker, N.E. LePard, S.McKinney, S.Hajee, M. Bosiljcic, G. Leprivier, C.E. Tognon, A.I. Minchinton, K.L. Bennewith, O.Delattre, Y. Wang, G. Dellaire, J.N. Berman, and P.H. Sorensen., (2015) Tranlsational activation of HIF1a by YB-1 promotes sarcoma metastasis Cancer Cell27(5):682-97 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Corkery, D., A. Holly, S. Lahsaee, and G. Dellaire, (2015) Connecting the Speckles: Splicing kinases and their role in tumorigenesis and treatment response Nucleus 6(4):279-88 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Chung, D., and G. Dellaire. , (2015) The role of the COP9 signalosome and neddylation in DNA damage signaling and repair Biomolecules in press:
  • Pinder, J., J. Salsman, and G. Dellaire, (2015) Nuclear domain “knock-in” screen for the evaluation and identification of small molecule enhancers of CRISPR-based genome editing Nucleic Acids Research (in press): [Article]
  • Stairs CW, Eme L, Brown MW, Mutsaers C, Susko E, Dellaire G, Soanes DM, van der Giezen M, Roger AJ., (2014) A SUF Fe-S Cluster Biogenesis System in the Mitochondrion-Related Organelles of the Anaerobic Protist Pygsuia Curr. Biol 24(11):1176-1186 [PubMed][Article]
  • Liu, Y., A. Asnani, L. Zou, V.L. Bentley, M. Yu, Y.Wang, G.Dellaire, K.S. Sarkar, M. Dai, H.H. Chen, D.E. Sosnovik, J.T. Shin, D.A. Haber, J.N. Berman, W. Chao, and R.T. Peterson , (2014) Visnagin protects against doxorubicin-induced cardiomyopathy through modulation of mitochondrial malate dehydrogenase Science Translational Medicine6(266):266ra170 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Lemaître, C., A. Grabarz, K.Tsouroula, L. Andronov, A. Furst, T. Pankotai, V.Heyer, M. Rogier, K.M. Attwood, P. Kessler, G. Dellaire, B. Reina-San-Martin, and E. Soutoglou , (2014) Nuclear position dictates DNA repair pathway choice Genes & Development28(22):2450-63 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Klement, K., M.S. Luijsterburg, J. Pinder, C.S. Cena, V. Del Nero1, C.M. Wintersinger, G. Dellaire, H. van Attikum, A.A. Goodarzi, (2014) Opposing ISWI- and CHD-class chromatin remodeling activities orchestrate heterochromatic DNA repair Journal of Cell Biology207(6):717-733 [PubMed] [Article]
  • Smithen DA, Forrester AM, Corkery DP, Dellaire G, Colpitts J, McFarland SA, Berman JN, Thompson A., (2013) Investigations regarding the utility of prodigiosenes to treat leukemia. Org. Biomol. Chem. 11(1):62-8 [PubMed]
  • Langelaan, D.N., Reddy, T., Banks, A.W., Dellaire, G., Dupré, D. and Rainey, J.K, (2013) Structural features of the apelin receptor N-terminal tail and first transmembrane segment implicated in ligand binding and receptor trafficking. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta - Biomembranes In press:
  • Pinder JB, Attwood KM, Dellaire G., (2013) Reading, writing, and repair: the role of ubiquitin and the ubiquitin-like proteins in DNA damage signaling and repair. Front Genet.4:45 [PubMed]
  • Andrin C, McDonald D, Attwood KM, Rodrigue A, Ghosh S, Mirzayans R, Masson JY,Dellaire G, Hendzel MJ., (2012) A requirement for polymerized actin in DNA double-strand break repair. Nucleus 3(4):384-95 [PubMed]
  • Salsman J, Jagannathan M, Paladino P, Chan PK, Dellaire G, Raught B, Frappier L., (2012) Proteomic profiling of the human cytomegalovirus UL35 gene products reveals a role for UL35 in the DNA repair response. J. Virol. 86(2):806-20. [PubMed]
  • Konantz M, Balci TB, Hartwig UF, Dellaire G, André MC, Berman JN, Lengerke C., (2012) Zebrafish xenografts as a tool for in vivo studies on human cancer. Ann N Y Acad Sci.1266:124-37 [PubMed]
  • Kepkay, R., Attwood, K.M., Ziv, Y., Shiloh, Y., Dellaire G., (2011) KAP1 depletion increases PML nuclear body number in concert with ultrastructural changes in chromatin. Cell Cycle10(2):308-222 [PubMed]
  • Cann KL, Dellaire G., (2011) Heterochromatin and the DNA damage response: the need to relax Biochem Cell Biol. 89(1):45-60 [PubMed]
  • Corkery DP, *Dellaire G, *Berman JN., (2011) Leukaemia xenotransplantation in zebrafish--chemotherapy response assay in vivo. *Co-corresponding authors Brit. J. Haematol. 153(6):786-9 [PubMed]
  • Bauer DC, Willadsen K, Buske FA, Lê Cao KA, Bailey TL, Dellaire G, Bodén M., (2011) Sorting the nuclear proteome. Bioinformatics 27(13):i7-14. [PubMed]
  • Dellaire, G., Kepkay, R., Bazett-Jones, D.P., (2009) High resolution imaging of changes in the structure and spatial organization of chromatin, gamma-H2A.X and the MRN complex within etoposide-induced DNA repair foci. Cell Cycle 8(22):3750-3769 [PubMed]
  • Dellaire, G. and D.P. Bazett-Jones, (2007) Beyond Repair Foci: Subnuclear Domains and the Cellular Response to DNA Damage Cell Cycle. 6(15):1864-1872 [PubMed]
  • Dellaire, G., R. Ching, K. Ahmed, K. Tse, F. Jalali, R.G. Bristow, and D.P. Bazett-Jones, (2006) PML nuclear bodies are DNA damage sensors whose response to DNA double-strand breaks is regulated by NBS1, Chk2 and ATR J. Cell Biol. 175(1):55-66 [PubMed]
  • Dellaire, G., R. Ching, H. Dehghani, Y. Ren and D.P. Bazett-Jones, (2006) PML nuclear bodies increase in number in early S-phase by a fission mechanism J. Cell Sci. 119(6):1026-1033 [PubMed]
  • Dellaire, G., C. Eskiw, H. Dehghani, R. Ching, and D.P. Bazett-Jones, (2006) Mitotic Accumulations of PML protein (MAPPs) contribute to the post-mitotic re-establishment of PML nuclear bodies. J. Cell Sci. 119(6):1034-1042 [PubMed]
  • Kruhlak, M.J., A. Celeste, G. Dellaire, O. Fernández-Capetillo,W.G. Müller, J.G. McNally, D.P. Bazett-Jones, and A. Nussenzweig, (2006) Changes in chromatin structure and mobility in living cells at sites of DNA double-strand breaks J. Cell Biol. 172(6):823-834[PubMed]