Skip to main content

Kevin Van Bortle

Profile picture for Kevin Van Bortle

Contact Information

B521 Chemical & Life Sciences Laboratory
Assistant Professor of Cell & Developmental Biology

Research Interests

Research Topics

Chromatin Structure, Computational Biology, Genome Organization, Genomics, Regulation of Gene Expression, RNA Biology

Disease Research Interests

Cancer, Drug Discovery

Research Description

RNA polymerase III transcription, gene regulation, small noncoding RNA

RNA polymerase III (Pol III) transcribes genes encoding tRNA, 5S ribosomal RNA, and other classes of small noncoding RNA involved in translation and other critical processes. Pol III activity is a prerequisite for cell growth and is linked to nutrient availability and extracellular growth cues via oncogenic and tumor-suppressor signaling pathways. Aberrant activation of growth signaling factors can lead to elevated levels of Pol III transcription, a hallmark of cancer.

My lab uses genomic approaches to investigate Pol III transcription dynamics during differentiation and in response to extracellular cues and signaling events. We are particularly interested in understanding the regulatory mechanisms that promote or restrict Pol III activity and which underly Pol III dysregulation in cancer. Our recent work suggests that a specific Pol III subunit, POLR3G, which is highly expressed in proliferative cells and a myriad of cancer contexts, enhances Pol III transcription and drives expression of small NF90-associated (SNAR-A) noncoding RNA. We seek to better understand the mechanism of POLR3G-enhanced transcription, the function of SNAR-A and other Pol III-transcribed small RNA, and the role of POLR3G as a potential disease factor and future therapeutic target.


B.S. 2009 University of Rochester
Ph.D. 2014 Emory University
Postdoc. 2015-2021 Stanford University School of Medicine

Awards and Honors

2019-2024 NIH Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)
2015-2018 Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA F32)

Additional Campus Affiliations

Recent Publications

Cheng, R., Zhou, S., K C, R., Lizarazo, S., Mouli, L., Jayanth, A., Liu, Q., & Van Bortle, K. (2023). A Combinatorial Regulatory Platform Determines Expression of RNA Polymerase III Subunit RPC7α (POLR3G) in Cancer. Cancers, 15(20), Article 4995.

Cheng, R., & Van Bortle, K. (2023). RNA polymerase III transcription and cancer: A tale of two RPC7 subunits. Frontiers in Molecular Biosciences, 9, Article 1073795.

Wang, N., Tsuruta, Y., Akiyama, M., van Balkom, I., Piane, M., LaRocque, J., Kanaan, M., Palau, F., Adams, D. J., Francastel, C., Natale, P., Goel, A., Mana, M., Pasmant, E., Williams, M., Christensen, K., Chen, S., Modi, Y. S., Jin, Z. B., ... Kreiling, J. (2023). Acknowledgment to reviewers of Journal of Translational Genetics and Genomics in 2022. Journal of Translational Genetics and Genomics, 7(1), 1-2.

Zhou, S., & Van Bortle, K. (2023). The Pol III transcriptome: Basic features, recurrent patterns, and emerging roles in cancer. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: RNA, 14(5), Article e1782.

Roodgar, M., Suchy, F. P., Nguyen, L. H., Bajpai, V. K., Sinha, R., Vilches-Moure, J. G., Van Bortle, K., Bhadury, J., Metwally, A., Jiang, L., Jian, R., Chiang, R., Oikonomopoulos, A., Wu, J. C., Weissman, I. L., Mankowski, J. L., Holmes, S., Loh, K. M., Nakauchi, H., ... Snyder, M. P. (2022). Chimpanzee and pig-tailed macaque iPSCs: Improved culture and generation of primate cross-species embryos. Cell Reports, 40(9), Article 111264.

View all publications on Illinois Experts

In the news

  • Graduate students, research scientists, and faculty gathered at the I Hotel and Conference Center earlier this month for the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology’s Graduate Research Retreat. The event brought together scholars from across the school to share scientific discoveries and learn...
  • The College of LAS is welcoming 38 new professors for the 2022-23 academic year. Their new positions range from clinical professors to assistant professors and an endowed position in more than 20 academic units, ranging from African American studies to economics, philosophy, statistics, and several...
  • Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Stanford University School of Medicine have identified a link between RNA polymerase III subunit composition and transcription, an advancement that has potential implications for future cancer research. Their findings were published in...
  • The School of Molecular & Cellular Biology and Department of Cell & Developmental Biology are thrilled to welcome new faculty member Kevin Van Bortle! He joins us from the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he conducted his postdoctoral research. We recently spoke with him about...