Research Collaborate Lab Bench
Dawn Wenzel, PhD

Dawn Wenzel, PhD

Assistant Professor


  • TBRC C2950

Contact Information

General Interests

Protein structure-function, cell division, phosphorylation, ubiquitination


PhD, Biochemistry, University of Washington-Seattle, 2010
BS, Biochemistry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2004


Dr. Wenzel received her PhD from the University of Washington-Seattle where she used structure-function studies to understand specificity within the ubiquitination system.

Dr. Wenzel then trained as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Utah where she studied how proteins from the ESCRT (Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport) pathway sever membranes to complete cell division. In particular, she focused on a cell division checkpoint known as the abscission checkpoint that synchronizes the completion of mitotic events with ESCRT-mediated membrane severing. In her studies, she identified several proteins that function with ESCRT proteins to reversibly inhibit abscission. Dr. Wenzel’s research was supported in part by an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Dr. Wenzel joined the Department of Biochemistry at the Medical College of Wisconsin in the Fall of 2020 where she continues to study signaling mechanisms that regulate cell division.

Research Interests

Orderly progression through cell division is regulated by a series of checkpoints which ensure the correct completion of DNA synthesis and chromosome segregation before cells can proceed to the next stage of the cell cycle. A single cell division in the presence of unsegregated chromosomes, termed lagging chromatin, can generate trademark features of cancer cells including chromosome fragmentation and micronucleation. To safeguard this process, cells have evolved a mechanism, known as the abscission checkpoint, that detects mistakes and arrests cell division at the abscission (membrane cutting) step until defects can be repaired. Our research is focused on understanding how persistent mitotic errors are sensed by the abscission checkpoint, how these errors are translated into a full abscission arrest, and finally, the signaling mechanisms that license abscission to proceed once mistakes are corrected.

Our recent studies and work from others has revealed that cells delay abscission, at least in part through inhibition of the membrane cutting machinery, known as Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport (ESCRT) proteins. One cellular strategy for ESCRT inhibition involves the sequential phosphorylation of ESCRT proteins by several key kinases known as Aurora B and ULK3. A specific focus of my lab is to understand how this phosphorylation is regulated with the goal of uncovering additional abscission protection strategies. The overarching aim of this research is to understand how healthy cells safeguard abscission and how defects in this pathway can result in diseases such as cancer. My lab uses a variety of biophysical and biochemical techniques including X-ray crystallography, fluorescence polarization and enzymatic assays to answer these questions.

If you are interested in joining the Wenzel lab, please contact Dr. Wenzel.


Wenzel Lab Figure