Jaya G Yodh

Research Assistant Professor


Jaya G Yodh

Primary Research Area

  • Biological Physics
320 Loomis Laboratory


Professor Jaya Yodh received her B.A. in biochemistry from Cornell University in 1987 and her Ph.D. in biochemistry in 1993 from Johns Hopkins University. Her postdoctoral training was funded by an American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship and was carried out at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Molecular Biology from 1993-1996 and Arizona State University Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry from 1996-1997. From 1997-2006, Dr. Yodh was employed as a professor of biochemistry at Midwestern University, Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, a teaching institution dedicated to training students in the health professions. She moved to University of Illinois in 2006 as a Research Assistant Professor/Lecturer in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology until 2008 when she transferred to the Department of Physics. Her research at the University of Illinois has been carried out within the National Science Foundation Physics Frontiers Center for the Physics of Living Cells (CPLC). 

Professor Yodh's research utilizes a combination of biochemical, molecular biology, and biophysical approaches to investigate how DNA metabolism occurs in a chromatin context. Specific areas of focus include 1) DNA motors such as helicase enzymes that catalyze NTP-dependent unwinding of duplex DNA into single-strands, a reaction essential for processes of DNA replication, repair, recombination, and transcription, and 2) Chromatin structures that package eukaryotic DNA, and how nucleosomal DNA becomes accessible to transcription and DNA repair machinery in the cell, and 3) G-quadruplex structures imporant in gene regulations.

Professor Yodh's graduate training with Floyd Bryant centered on the kinetic mechanism of the E. Coli UvrD DNA repair helicase enzyme. Her postdoctoral work with Robert Kingston at MA General Hospital studied how histone modifications impact the binding of eukaryotic transcription factors to nucleosomal DNA. During her postdoctoral training with Dennis Lohr at Arizona State University, she began investigating chromatin structure using atomic force microscopy (AFM). She continued this collaboration during her professorship at Midwestern University leading to a series of publications on AFM analysis of structural features of reconstituted chromatin arrays in the presence of histone acetylation and chromatin remodelers.

Research Statement

Professor Yodh's research in the Department of Physics at University of Illinois applies single-molecule (sm) approaches to study helicase, chromatin, and G-quadruplex systems. One project has probed the mechanism of unwinding by the human RecQ helicases which are mutated in diseases associated with genome instability and cancer. In conjunction with the laboratory of Taekjip Ha, Dr. Yodh applied single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) to discover a repetitive unwinding activity by human Bloom Syndrome helicase (BLM) that involves strand switching after a critical length of DNA is unwound. In collaboration with Hamza Balci at Kent State University, Dr. Yodh is currently exploring how BLM interacts with and unfolds G-quadruplex structures found throughout the genome. DNA in eukaryotes is packaged into chromatin structures which can limit enzyme accessibility. Using chromatin templates developed for analysis via combined optical trap/single-molecule fluorescence detection techniques, Dr. Yodh and members of the Ha group have discovered that nucleosomes will unwrap asymmetrically under tension in a manner controlled by DNA local flexibility. This discovery suggests a novel mechanism of gene regulation by DNA sequence and modifications.

Teaching Statement

PHYS 498 BP Biophysics Lab (Spring 2017); PHYS 598 BP Biophysics Lab (Spring 2014, 2015, 2016). Co-Instructor with Paul Selvin. Upper level biophysics laboratory course for senior physics undergraduates (2015-17) and graduate students (2014-17). 

MCB 450 Introductory Biochemistry (Summers 2007, 2008), Professor Yodh was also a lecturer in the UIUC School of Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) from 2006-8 during which she taught MCB 450 Biochemistry for non-majors.

Other Outside Service

Selected Articles in Journals

Related news

  • Research
  • Biological Physics
  • Biophysics

“We discovered this interesting physics of DNA that its sequence determines the flexibility and thus the stability of the DNA package inside the cell,” said Gutgsell Professor of Physics Taekjip Ha, who is a member of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. “This is actually very elementary DNA physics. Many people thought we should have known this many decades ago, but there are still surprises in the physics of DNA.”