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Joseph D. Fontes, PhD

Joe Fontes portrait
Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Vice Chair, Vice Chair, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Assistant Dean, SOM-Kansas City

Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Professional Background

Univeristy of California, Santa Barbara, B.S. Pharmcology, 1987

University of California, Davis, Ph.D. Pharmacology and Toxicology, 1992

University of California, San Fancisco, Post-Doctoral Fellowship, 1992-1998

Cleveland State Unviersity, Faculty, 1998-2006

University of Kansas Medical Center, Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2007 - 2017

University of Kansas Medical Center, Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 2017 - present; Vice-Chair 2023 - present.

University of Kansas Medical Center, Assistant Dean, Office of Medical Education, 2019-Present

Education and Training
  • BS, Univ. of California-Santa Barb
  • PhD, Univ. of California-Davis
  • Post Doctoral Fellowship, Molecular Biology/Immunology, University of California San Francisco/Howard Hughes Medical Institute, San Francisco, CA
Professional Affiliations
  • Association of Biochemistry Educators (formerly Assoc. Biochemistry Course Directors), Association of Biochemistry Educators, Member, Executive Board, 2015 - Present



​​​​The focus of my lab is on mechanisms that regulate gene transcription during the development and function of the immune system. Currently, the major effort in my lab is to characterize the role of a family of transcription factors know as zinc finger X-linked duplicated (ZXD) in immune system function. Our earlier work demonstrated a role for two ZXD family members, ZXDA and ZXDC, in the transcription of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC II) genes. More recently, we have established that ZXDC participates in regulating genes important for the development and activity of myeloid cells, particular those of the monocyte lineage. Our current model for the activity of ZXDC invokes two different mechanisms. First, ZXDC binds to and inhibits the activity of a transcriptional repressor B-cell lymphoma 6 protein (Bcl6), leading to increased transcription of specific genes, including the Chemokine (C-C motif) ligand 2 (CCL2; also known as monocyte chemoattractant protein -1, MCP1). Secondly, one isoform of ZXDC interacts with chromatin modifying enzyme complexes, leading to changes in enhancer activity that regulates genes necessary for monocyte differentiation and function. We are currently pursuing the mechanistic differences and gene targets of the two ZXDC isoforms and further refining the models by which they alter transcription.

Another aspect of my laboratory's work is a robust collaboration with Dr. Andrei Belousov in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at KUMC, focused on the regulation and activity of the gap-junction protein connexin-36 (Cx36) in neuronal development and death following injury.

A final component of my research program are collaborations with Dr. Liksin Swint-Kruse in my department, related to identification and characterization of rheostat positions in intrinsically disordered proteins.