Thomas Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis, Ph.D.

Thomas Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis, Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
RNA Biology Laboratory


Thomas Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis studies the regulatory pathways and functional roles of alternative splicing and other pre-mRNA processing events in mammalian cells. Towards this, he has developed several CRISPR-based screening platforms which are coupled to high-throughput phenotyping and enable systematic exploration of the regulatory and functional complexity of pre-mRNA processing. Dr. Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis’ team combines these functional genomics tools with molecular and biochemical approaches as well as animal models to identify alternative exons and other genetic segments that underlie phenotypes related to normal physiology and disease states. The long-term goal of his research is to contribute to the functional annotation of all exons in the human genome and to map the gene regulatory networks that underlie the complexity of the mammalian transcriptome.

Areas of Expertise

Alternative Splicing
Functional Genomics
Pre-mRNA processing


Selected Key Publications

Application of CHyMErA Cas9-Cas12a combinatorial genome-editing platform for genetic interaction mapping and gene fragment deletion screening

Michael Aregger, Kun Xing & Thomas Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis
Nature Protocols. 2021.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Genetic interaction mapping and exon-resolution functional genomics with a hybrid Cas9-Cas12a platform

Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis T, Aregger M, Brown KR, Farhangmehr S, Braunschweig U, Ward HN, Ha KCH, Weiss A, Billmann M, Durbic T, Myers CL, Blencowe BJ, Moffat J.
Nature Biotechnology. 38(5): 638-648, 2020.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Autism-Misregulated eIF4G Microexons Control Synaptic Translation and Higher Order Cognitive Functions

Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis T, Niibori R, Salter EW, Weatheritt RJ, Tsang B, Farhangmehr S, Liang X, Braunschweig U, Roth J, Zhang S, Henderson T, Sharma E, Quesnel-Vallières M, Permanyer J, Maier S, Georgiou J, Irimia M, Sonenberg N, Forman-Kay JD, Gingras AC, Collingridge GL, Woodin MA, Cordes SP, Blencowe BJ.
Molecular Cell. 77(6): 1176-1192, 2020.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Microexons: at the nexus of nervous system development, behaviour and autism spectrum disorder

Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis T and Blencowe BJ.
Current Opinion in Genetics & Development. 65: 22-33, 2020.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]

Genome-wide CRISPR-Cas9 Interrogation of Splicing Networks Reveals a Mechanism for Recognition of Autism-Misregulated Neuronal Microexons

Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis T, Wu M, Braunschweig U, Roth J, Han H, Best AJ, Raj B, Aregger M, O'Hanlon D, Ellis JD, Calarco JA, Moffat J, Gingras AC, Blencowe BJ.
Molecular Cell. 72(3): 510-524, 2018.
Full-Text Article
[ Journal Article ]


June 2024 -  We are excited to welcome Benista Owusu-Amo to our group for a NIH Summer Internship!

January 2024 -  Our team is growing. We are excited to welcome Jeongjin (JJ) Kim as a new PostDoc to the group!

July 2023 - Congratulations to Arun for winning an NIH FARE travel award!

June 2023 -  We welcome Nikhil Parab to our group for a NIH Summer Internship!

May 2023 - Congratulations to Shreya for winning an outstanding poster award at the 2023 Frederick Spring Research Festival!

December 2022 - Bandana Kumari has joined our team as a computational PostDoc. We're excited to welcome Bandana at NCI-Frederick!

October 2022 - We're happy to extend our group and welcome Amit Behera who is joining our group after having completed his Postdoc in Angela Brooks lab at UCSC.

August 2022 - Ethan starting his PhD studies at the University of California Santa Barbara. Well done Ethan! We will miss you.

June 2022 -  We welcome Max Teszler to our group for a NIH Summer Internship!

May 2022 - Congratulations to Shreya for winning the first poster prize presentation at the 2022 Frederick Spring Research Festival!

September 2021 - A protocol paper describing how to use our combinatorial Cas9-Cas12a screening platform for genetic interaction mapping and exon resolution functional genomics is now published at Nature Protocols.

September 2021 - A computational method for analyzing combinatorial CRISPR screens spearheaded by Henry Ward in Chad Myers' lab at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities is published along our CHyMErA screening protocol at Nature Protocols.

August 2021 - A warm welcome to Shreya Kordale who joins our team as a PostBac student.

June 2021 - Michael has been selected as a recipient of an NIH Stadtman Investigator tenure-track position and he will open his lab at the Molecular Targets Program at NCI-Frederick in October 2021. Congratulations Michael!!

May 2021 - Congrats to Timothy who won an 'Outstanding Poster Award' at the Postbac Poster Day 2021!

April 2021 - Kun has been accepted for an MD/PhD position at Ohio State University. Well done Kun!

March 2021 - We're excited to further extend our team and to welcome Arun Prasath Damodaran who is starting his PostDoc in our group.

March 2021 - Our group has been awarded a Center of Cancer Research FLEX Technology Development Grant for developing a scalable combinatorial screening platform for high-content phenotyping. We’re very grateful for the immense support of NCI/NIH of our research!

November 2020 - We're excited to welcome Meisheng Xiao who is joining our group after having completed his Postdoc in Jeremy Wilusz lab at UPenn.

September 2020 - After several weeks of quarantine and waiting for biosafety approval we are now able to officially open the lab. Welcome to the team Michael, Ethan, Kun and Timothy and thanks everyone at NCI-Frederick and the RNA Biology Laboratory for their gracious welcoming!