Susan L Forsburg

Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences
Susan L Forsburg
Email Office RRI 104C Office Phone (213) 740-7342

Research & Practice Areas

Cancer Biology, DNA replication, chromosome dynamics, genome integrity, live cell analysis, microscopy, cell biology, genetics

Center, Institute & Lab Affiliations

  • USC/Norris Cancer Center, member



  • Ph.D. Biology (genetics), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 5/1989
  • A.B. English and Molecular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, 6/1984
    • Postdoctoral Fellow, Imperial Cancer Research Fund/Oxford University, 08/01/1989-08/01/1993
  • Tenure Track Appointments

    • Professor, University of Southern California, 2006 –
    • Associate Professor, University of Southern California, 2004 – 2006
    • Associate Professor, Molecular & Cell Biology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 05/01/2000 – 05/31/2004
    • Adjunct Associate Professor, Biology, University of California, San Diego, 05/01/2000 – 05/31/2004
    • Adjunct Assistant Professor, Biology, University of California, San Diego, 01/01/1997 – 05/01/2000
    • Assistant Professor, Molecular Biology & Virology Laboratory, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, 09/01/1993 – 05/01/2000

    Visiting and Temporary Appointments

    • Visiting Professor in Genetics, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, 06/01/1995-08/01/1995
  • Summary Statement of Research Interests

    Accurate duplication and segregation of our chromosomes is critical for human development and well-being. Defects in the processes that maintain the integrity of our genome contribute to cancer, birth defects, and other disorders. Professor Forsburg studies how chromosome duplication and maintenance contributes to overall genome stability using a simple model genetic system, the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Fission yeast is a single-celled organism with chromosomes very similar to those in humans, and uses the same genes to maintain those chromosomes. It has proven to be an important model for cell division. Because loss of genome integrity and deregulation of cell division is associated with cancer, this is a fundamental form of cancer research.

    Research Keywords

    genome integrity, DNA replication, recombination, chromosomes, translocation, meiosis, Schizosaccharomyces pombe, fission yeast, genetics, model system, cancer, cell biology, molecular biology, MCM proteins

    Detailed Statement of Research Interests

    Professor Forsburg studies how chromosome duplication and maintenance contributes to overall genome stability  in a model genetic system, the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe.   Fission yeast is a simple, single-celled organism with chromosomes very similar to those in humans, and has proven to be an important model for cell division. 

    Forsburg takes a holistic approach to studying how DNA replication stress contributes to genome stability.  Ongoing studies address the role of the MCM helicase in maintaining the structure of the replication fork;  the function of recombination  and repair proteins in maintaining genome structure during S phase, including during meiosis; and the contribution of  chromatin-modifying proteins to replication and repair.  


    The Forsburg lab uses a mixture of classical genetics, molecular biology, and state-of-the-art microscopy to investigate how defects in replication contribute to genome instability during normal cell growth and during the differentiation process of meiosis.  Recently, the group identified the centromere as a natural fragile site in the genome, particularly when the replication fork is disrupted. As part of this project, a novel chromosome translocation was identified, which provides a model for Robertsonian translocation. Additionally, a novel replication mutant generates micronuclei.  These are a feature of cancer cells and this provides a powerful yeast model to examine micronucleus formation and resolution, and their contribution to gross chromosome rearrangements.  Finally, cells in meiosis are uniquely vulnerable to replication stress and genome instability, leading to chromosome mis-segregation and spore lethality.  

    The group employs advanced imaging methods to complement their classical genetics, using widefield deconvolution microscopy.  A particular strength is the ability to perform live-cell studies with fluorescent proteins in real time that allows single cell analysis.  Using microfluidics technology, cells can be imaged during treatment with genome destabilized agents, and then during recovery.  Additionally, the lab is doing high-throughput analysis of visual markers in a library of mutant straiuns.   Forsburg’s group is also developing technology for single-molecule imaging of replication forks on intact chromatin fibers.


  • Journal Article

    • Sabatinos, S. A., Ranatunga, N. S., Yuan, J., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L. (2015). Replication stress in early S phase generates apparent micronuclei and chromosome rearrangement in fission yeast. Mol. Biol. Cell. Vol. 26, pp. 3439-50. PubMed Web Address
    • Forsburg, S. L. (2015). Managing Single-Stranded DNA during Replication Stress in Fission Yeast. Biomolecules. Vol. 5, pp. 2123-39. PubMed Web Address
    • Mastro, T. L., Forsburg, S. L. (2014). Increased Meiotic Crossovers and Reduced Genome Stability in Absence of Schizosaccharomyces pombe Rad16 (XPF). Genetics. Vol. 198 (4), pp. 1457-72. PubMed Web Address
    • Ding, L., Laor, D., Weisman, R., Forsburg, S. L. (2014). Rapid regulation of nuclear proteins by rapamycin-induced translocation in fission yeast. Yeast. Vol. 31 (72014/04/16), pp. 253-64.
    • Ding, L., Forsburg, S. L. (2014). Essential Domains of Schizosaccharomyces pombe Rad8 Required for DNA Damage Response. G3. Vol. 4 (82014/05/31), pp. 1373-84.
    • Peng, J., Chen, Y., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L., Hsu, C. (2013). PombeX: Robust Cell Segmentation for Fission Yeast Transillumination Images. PLOS ONE. Vol. 8 (12), pp. e81434. Open access
    • Forsburg, S. L. (2013). The CINs of the centromere. Biochem Soc Trans.. Vol. 41, pp. 1706-11. Pubmed
    • Li, P. C., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L. (2013). Mutations disrupting histone methylation have different effects on replication timing in S. pombe centromere. PLOS ONE. Vol. 8 (5), pp. e61464. Pubmed
    • Li, P. C., Petreaca, R. C., Jensen, A., Yuan, J. P., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L. (2013). Replication fork stability is essential for the maintenance of centromere integrity in the absence of heterochromatin. Cell reports. Vol. 3 (32013/03/13), pp. 638-45. Pubmed
    • Slaymaker, I. M., Fu, Y., Toso, D. B., Ranatunga, N., Brewster, A., Forsburg, S. L., Zhou, Z. H., Chen, X. S. (2013). Mini-chromosome maintenance complexes form a filament to remodel DNA structure and topology. Nucleic acids research. Vol. 41 (52013/01/31), pp. 3446-56. Pubmed
    • Sabatinos, S. A., Mastro, T. L., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L. (2013). A mammalian-like DNA damage response of fission yeast to nucleoside analogs. Genetics. Vol. 193 (12012/11/15), pp. 143-57. Pubmed
    • Le, A. H., Mastro, T. L., Forsburg, S. L. (2013). The C-terminus of S. pombe DDK subunit Dfp1 is required for meiosis-specific transcription and cohesin cleavage. Biology open. Vol. 2 (72013/07/19), pp. 728-38. Pubmed
    • Sabatinos, S. A., Green, M. D., Forsburg, S. L. (2012). Continued DNA synthesis in replication checkpoint mutants leads to fork collapse. Molecular and cellular biology. Vol. 32 (242012/10/10), pp. 4986-97. Pubmed
    • Ding, L., Forsburg, S. L. (2011). Schizosaccharomyces pombe MCM binding protein (MCM-BP) antagonizes MCM helicase. J. Biol. Chem. Vol. 286, pp. 32918-30. Pubmed
    • Li, P. C., Chretien, L., Cote, J., Kelly, T. J., Forsburg, S. L. (2011). S. pombe replication protein Cdc18 (Cdc6) interacts with Swi6 (HP1) heterochromatin protein: region specific effects and replication timing in the centromere. Vol. 10 (22011/01/18), pp. 323-36. Pubmed
    • Dolan, W. P., Le, A. H., Schmidt, H., Yuan, J. P., Green, M., Forsburg, S. L. (2010). Fission yeast Hsk1 (Cdc7) kinase is required after replication initiation for induced mutagenesis and proper response to DNA alkylation damage. Genetics. Vol. 185 (12010/02/24), pp. 39-53.
    • Nugent, R. L., Johnsson, A., Fleharty, B., Gogol, M., Xue-Franzen, Y., Seidel, C., Wright, A. P., Forsburg, S. L. (2010). Expression profiling of S. pombe acetyltransferase mutants identifies redundant pathways of gene regulation. BMC Genomics. Vol. 11 (2010/01/26), pp. 59.
    • Singh, S. K., Sabatinos, S., Forsburg, S. L., Bastia, D. (2010). Regulation of replication termination by Reb1 protein-mediated action at a distance. Cell. Vol. 142 (62010/09/21), pp. 868-78.
    • Sabatinos, S. A., Forsburg, S. L. Measuring DNA Content by Flow Cytometry in Fission Yeast. Methods Mol. Vol. 521. 2009:449-61
    • Green, M. D., Sabatinos, S. A., Forsburg, S. L. (2009). Microscopy techniques to examine DNA replication in fission yeast. Methods Mol Biol. Vol. 521 (2009/07/01), pp. 463-82.
    • Forsburg, S. L. (2008). The MCM helicase: at the interface of checkpoints and the replication fork. Bioch. Society Trans.. Vol. 36, pp. 114-119.
    • Bailis, J. M., Luche, D. D., Hunter, T., Forsburg, S. L. (2008). Minichromosome maintenance proteins interact with checkpoint and recombination proteins to promote s-phase genome stability. Mol Cell Biol. Vol. 28 (52008/01/09), pp. 1724-38.
    • Gómez, E. B., Nugent, R. L., Laria, S., Forsburg, S. L. (2008). Schizosaccharomyces pombe histone acetyltransferase Mst1 (KAT5) is an essential protein required for damage response and chromosome segregation. Genetics. Vol. 179 (22008/05/29), pp. 757-71.
    • Pankratz, D. G., Forsburg, S. L. (2005). Meiotic S-phase damage activates recombination without checkpoint arrest. Mol. Biol. Cell. Vol. 16, pp. 1651-1660.
    • Bailis, J. M., Bernard, P., Antonelli, R., Allshire, R., Forsburg, S. L. (2003). Hsk1/Dfp1 is required for heterochromatin-mediated cohesion at centromeres. Nat. Cell Biol.. pp. 1111-1116.
    • Catlett, M. G., Forsburg, S. L. (2003). Schizosaccharomyces pombe Rdh54 (TID1) acts with Rhp54 (RAD54) to repair meiotic double-strand breaks. Mol. Biol. Cell. Vol. 14, pp. 4707-20.
    • Hodson, J. A., Bailis, J. M., Forsburg, S. L. (2003). Efficient labeling of fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe with thymidine and BUdR. Nucl. Acids Res. .. Vol. 31, pp. e134.
    • Wood, V., Gwilliam, R., Rajandream, M., Lyne, M., Lyne, R., Stewart, A., Sgouros, J., Peat, N., Hayles, J., Baker, S., Basham, D., Bowman, S., Brooks, K., Brown, D., Brown, S., Fraser, T., Gentles, S., Goble, A., Hamlin, N., Harris, D., Hidalgo, J., Hodgson, G., Holroyd, S., Holroyd, S., Hornsby, T., Howarth, S., Huckle, E. J., Hunt, S., Jagels, K., James, K., Jones, L., Jones, M., Leather, S., Mcdonald, S., McLean, J., Moule, S., Mungail, K., Murphy, L., Niblett, D., Odell, C., Oliver, K., O’Neil, S., Pearson, D., Quail, M. A., Rabbinowitsch, E., Rutherford, K., Rutter, S., Saunders, D., Seeger, K., Sharp, S., skelton, J., Simmonds, M., Squares, R., Squares, s., Stevens, K., Taylor, K., Taylor, R. g., Walsh, S., Warren, T., Whitehead, S., Woodwrd, j., Volckaerv, G., Aert, R., Robben, J., Grymonprez, B., Weltjens, I., Vanstreels, E., Rieger, M., Schofer, M., Muller-Auer, S., Gabel, C., fuchs, M., Fritze, C., Holzer, E., Moestl, D., Hilbert, H., Borzym, K., Langer, I., Beck, A., Lehrach, H., Reinhardt, R., Pohl, T. M., Eger, P., Zimmermann, W., Wedler, H., Wambutt, r., Purnelle, B., Goffeau, A., Cadieu, E., Driano, S., Gloux, S., Lelaure, V., Mottier, S., Galibert, F., Aves, S. J., Xiang, Z., Hunt, C., Moore, K., Hurst, S. M., Lucas, M., Rochet, M., Gaillardin, C., Tailada, V. A., Garzon, A., Thode, G., Daga, R. r., Cruza, L. |. (2002). The genome sequence of the eukaryote fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Nature. Vol. 415, pp. 871-880.
    • Forsburg, S. L. (2001). The art and design of genetic screens: yeast. Nature Rev. Genet.. Vol. 2, pp. 659-668.


    • Sabatinos, S. A., Forsburg, S. L. (2013). Preserving the Replication Fork in Response to Nucleotide Starvation: Evading the Replication Fork Collapse Point. The Mechanisms of DNA Replication (open access)Intech.
    • Web page, The Forsburg Lab pombe pages or, 1995
    • web site, Women in Biology Internet Launch Pages, 1997
    • Web Page, Remembering Marguerite Vogt: a biography (web site), 2007-2008
    • Fellow (or Equivalent) of National Society in Discipline, American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, 2023
    • USC Distinguished Professor, , 2020
    • Fellow (or Equivalent) of National Society in Discipline, American Academy of Microbiology, 2014
    • Fellow, California Academy of Sciences, 2013
    • Fellow, Association of Women in Science, 2006
    • Nature Mentoring Award, Fall 2016
    • Received the 2011 Evans Award from the American Society of Microbiology to honor her contribution to the participation and advancement of women in microbiology., 2011
    • USC faculty fellow, Center for Excellence in Research, 2008-2011
    • Mellon Mentoring Award Certificate, USC, 2005-2006
    • Fellow (or Equivalent) of National Society in Discipline, Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2004
    • Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, Stohlman Scholar, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 2002
    • Recipient of National or International Prize in Discipline, American Society for Cell Biology WICB Junior Career Recognition Award, 1996
  • Editorships and Editorial Boards

    • Senior Editor, Genes, Genomes, and Genetics, 2011 –

    Professional Memberships

    • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2007 –
    • Association for Women in Science, 1995 –
    • American Society for Cell Biology, 1994 –
    • American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993 –
    • Genetics Society of America, 1990 –