Keith Hutchison, Ph.D.

Keith HutchisonPhone: (207) 581-2827
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Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
1999 Presidential Outstanding Teaching Award
2001 Distinguished Maine Professor Award
2002 Maine Professor of the Year: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Teaching



Ph.D. (1974), Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
M.S. (1972), Bacteriology, University of Wisconsin-Madison
A.B. (1969), Bacteriology, University of Connecticut

Research interests

Research in my laboratory currently is directed toward understanding control of the earliest moments of development using both the zebrafish and the mouse as model systems. In collaboration with Drs. Barbara Knowles and Joel Graber, at The Jackson Laboratory, we are using a combination of computational and experimental approaches to determine the signals in the 3′ UTR of transcripts that control poly-adenylation as well as other mRNA processing events (see Salisbury, Hutchison and Graber, 2006).

Our major research focus is on determining the genomic sequences responsible for reorganization and activation of the oocyte genome in the developing embryo using the activation of retrotransposons as our model system. Work in the Knowles laboratory had previously shown that over 10% of the transcripts in the mouse oocyte was from the MT class of mouse retrotransposons. There are over 15000 LTRs in the mouse genome and around 3000 intact MT elements. Some of the LTRs are also used to drive expression of normal mouse genes. Using a computational approach we have narrowed to number of possible MT elements being activated during oocyte development to 30 to 150 (see Peaston, Knowles and Hutchison, 2007). Once confirmed these loci can be compared with non-expressed loci for local and long-range cis-acting elements that control expression in the oocyte. We are also scanning the zebrafish genome for retrotransposons that may have a similar activation pattern. The zebrafish genome is less well characterized and the EST databases are not as complete as for the mouse. Nevertheless, the ease of working with embryos in the earliest stages of development make this an attractive system to explore

In times past:
As reflected in the list of publications, previous research in this laboratory was centered on control of gene expression in conifers, particularly in the formation of adventitious roots. Adventitious root formation has an absolute requirement for the addition of auxins. Rooting and non-rooting tissues show similar initial responses to the exogenous auxin. We have identified expansin, a cell wall modeling gene as one of those genes that are induced by exogenous auxin application. Using RT-PCR and northern blots we show that expression reaches its maximum in approximately 24 hours. Expression precedes root meristem organization but using in situ hybridization we have found that expression is located in those regions of the plant were roots are going to form. Expression can also be found in non-rooting epicotyl tissue but in this case expression is uniformally distributed, suggesting that asymmetry of expression may be a pre-requisite for root initials to form.


  • Peaston AE, Knowles BB and Hutchison KW (2007) Genome plasticity in the mouse oocyte and early embryo. Biochem. Soc. Trans. 35: 618-622.
  • Salisbury J, Hutchison KW and Graber JH. (2006) A multispecies comparison of the metazoan 3′-processing downstream elements and the CstF-64 RNA recognition motif. BMC Genomics 7: 55
  • Greenwood MS, Xu F, and Hutchison KW (2006) The role of auxin-induced peaks of α-expansin expression during lateral root primordium formation in Pinus taeda. Physiologia Plantarum 126: 279-288.
  • Hutchison KW, Singer PB, McInnis S, Diaz-Sala C, Greenwood MS. 1999. Expansins are conserved in conifers and expressed in hypocotyls in response to exogenous auxin. Plant Physiol 120:827-832.
  • Diaz-Sala C, Hutchison KW, Goldfarb B, Greenwood MS. 1996. Maturation-related loss of rooting competence by loblolly pine stem cuttings: the role of auxin transport, metabolism and tissue sensitivity. Physiol Plant 97:481-490
  • Campbell MA, Neale DB, Harvie P, Hutchison KW. 1994. Tissue specific and light regulated expression of a larch rbcS promoter in transgenic tobacco. Can J For Res 24:1689-1693..
  • Hutchison KW, Harvie PD, Singer PB, Brunner AF, Greenwood MS. 1990. Nucleotide sequence of the small subunit of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase from the conifer Larix laricina. Plant Mol Biol 14:281-284.
  • Hutchison KW, Sherman CD, Weber J, Smith SS, Singer PB, Greenwood MS. 1990. Maturation in larch. II. Effects of age on photosynthesis and gene expression in developing foliage. Plant Physiol 94:1308-1315
  • Greenwood MS, Hopper CA, Hutchison KW. 1989. Maturation in Larch. I. Effect of age on shoot growth, foliar characteristics, and DNA methylation. Plant Physiol 90:406- 412.
  • Hutchison KW, Eicher EM. 1989. An amplified endogenous retroviral sequence on the murine Y chromosome related to MuLVs and VL30S sequences. J Virol 63:4043-4046.
  • Copeland NG, Hutchison KW, Jenkins NA. 1983. Excision of the DBA provirus in dilute coat-color revertants of mice occurs by homologous recombination involving viral LTRs. Cell 33:379-387.
  • Hutchison KW, Copeland NG, Jenkins NA. 1984. Dilute coat-color locus of mice: nucleotide sequence analysis of the d+2J and d+Ha revertants. Mol Cell Biol 4:2899-2904.