Chris Amemiya, PhD

Member; Manager, Genome Resource Center
Office Phone: 
(206) 287-1011, Lab (206) 287-1010, Fax (206) 342-6578

Background Information

Dr. Amemiya was born and raised in Hawaii. He completed his undergraduate studies at Purdue University and received his PhD in genetics from Texas A&M University. He was a recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship in Molecular Studies of Evolution and completed postdoctoral studies with Dr. Gary Litman in comparative immunology (Tampa Bay Research Institute, Florida). He took a second postdoctoral fellowship where he worked on the Human Genome Project with Dr. Pieter de Jong (Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California). After his postdoctoral training, Dr. Amemiya became a faculty member (Assistant-Associate Professor) in the Center for Human Genetics at the Boston University School of Medicine for seven years, where he taught medical genetics and studied the genetics of an X-linked immunodeficiency diseaser. While in Boston he participated in a mutation screen for immunodeficiency loci in zebrafish and began working on the comparative genomics and evolution of vertebrate HOX clusters. Dr. Amemiya moved to Benaroya Research Institute in 2001. In 2007-2008, he served as a Program Director for the National Science Foundation in Washington D.C. He is a full professor in the Biology Department at the University of Washington.

Area of Research

Dr. Amemiya is interested in the origins of novelty and innovation in vertebrates, with special emphasis on the adaptive immune system and vertebrate bauplan. His lab uses whatever tools are necessary to address fundamental biological questions, particularly large-insert cloning, comparative genomics, computational biology and developmental biology. Although the research is fundamental in scope, his laboratory is always looking for ways in which their findings may be relevant and applicable to biomedical research. Projects ongoing in the lab include efforts to characterize the antibody-based immune system of the so-called jawless vertebrates. These animals do not utilize immunoglobulin domains for immune recognition molecules but instead use a completely different toolkit that employs leucine rich repeat modules. Dr. Amemiya's laboratory wishes to understand the mode by which diversity is generated at the genomic and developmental levels and how the mechanism emerged in the first place. This work is tied to their recent work on the lamprey genome indicating that 20% of the chromatin (including coding sequences) is lost during embryonic development. The mechanism by which this loss is occurring is a central focus of the laboratory. Lastly, the group has been studying the organization of HOX clusters across phylogeny. Hox genes are intimately involved in developmental patterning of the embryo and are often thought of as facilitators of evolutionary change. By studying the patterns of HOX clusters between major phylogenetic groups the laboratory hopes to deduce how the Hox genes and their regulatory elements have contributed to vertebrate evolution and structural novelty, such as the mammalian placenta. Many functional experiments are carried out in the zebrafish model system.

Amemiya Laboratory

Dr. Amemiya’s Department of Biology Web site, University of Washington

Dr. Amemiya’s Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Web site, University of Washington

Dr. Amemiya’s Molecular and Cellular Biology Web site, University of Washington

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