Steve Roberts, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Training & Education

Dr. Roberts obtained his Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Biophysics from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 2008. There, he studied the activities of the DNA end recognition protein, Ku, during non-homologous end joining of chromosome breaks under the direction of Dr. Dale Ramsden.  Subsequently, he conducted post-doctoral training with Dr. Dmitry Gordenin at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina until 2014.  During this time, Dr. Roberts studied the genome-wide distribution of damage-induced mutations in yeast and identified mechanisms resulting in simultaneous, closely spaced mutation clusters.  This analysis also allowed the identification of similar mutation bursts in human cancers, called kataegis, which highlighted a major causative role of APOBEC cytidine deaminases in causing mutations as tumors develop.  In 2014, Dr. Roberts started his independent research program at Washington State University in the School of Molecular Biosciences.  His group determined a causative role for APOBEC3A in cancer mutagenesis, determined these enzymes mutated cancer genomes by deaminating replication intermediates, and identified the importance of atypical UV photoproducts in causing driver mutations in melanoma.  He was recruited to the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics in 2023 to continue studies on APOBECs, UV mutagenesis, transcription-associated mutagenesis, and oxidation-induced mutagenesis.

Research Interests

  • Genome dynamics: mechanisms of mutation and chromosome alteration that contribute to human disease.
  • Roles of APOBEC cytidine deaminases in cancer mutagenesis
  • Genome-wide mapping of DNA lesions
  • DNA damage-induced mutation
  • Mutagenic DNA double-strand break repair
  • Biochemistry, Genetics, Genomics, and Bioinformatics

Featured Publications

  1. Cortez LM, Brown AL, Dennis MA, Collins CD, Brown AJ, Mitchell D, Mertz TM*, and Roberts SA*. APOBEC3A is a prominent cytidine deaminase in breast cancer. (2019) PLoS Genet. published 16 Dec 2019. PMID:31841499.  (* co-corresponding author)
  2. Laughery MF, Brown AJ, Bohm KA, Sivapragasam S, Morris HS, Tchmola M, Washington AD, Mitchell D, Mather S, Malc EP, Mieczkowski PA, Roberts SA*, and Wyrick JJ*. Atypical UV photoproducts induce novel mutation signatures that promote driver mutations in melanoma. (2020) Cell Reports. Nov 17;33(7):108401. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2020.108401. PMID: 33207206.  (* co-corresponding author)
  3. Vandenberg BN, Laughery MF, Cordero C, Plummer D, Mitchell D, Kreyenhagen J, Albaqshi F, Brown AJ, Mieczkowski PA, Wyrick JJ*, and Roberts SA*. Contributions of replicative and translesion DNA polymerases to mutagenic bypass of canonical and atypical UV photoproducts (2023) Nat Commun. 2023 May 4;14(1):2576. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-38255-5. PMID: 37142570 PMCID: PMC10160025 (* Co-corresponding author)
  4. Mertz TM, Rice-Reynolds E, Nguyen L, Wood A, Cordero C, Bray N, Harcy V, Vyas RK, Mitchell D, Lobachev K, and Roberts SA. Genetic inhibitors of APOBEC3B-induced mutagenesis (2023) Genome Research. 2023 Aug 2;gr.277430.122. doi: 10.1101/gr.277430.122. PMID: 37532520
  5. Coxon M, Dennis MA, Dananberg A, Collins CD, Wilson HE, Meekma J, Savenkova MI, Ng D, Osbron CA, Mertz TM, Goodman AG, Duttke SH, Maciejowski J, and Roberts SA. An impaired ubiquitin-proteasome system increases APOBEC3A abundance (2023) NAR Cancer. 2023 Dec 19;5(4):zcad058. doi: 10.1093/narcan/zcad058. eCollection 2023 Dec. PMID: 38155930


All Roberts Publications


Contact Information

Office: Firestone Medical Research Building (FMRB) 352

Lab: FMRB 350

Phone: 802-656-3502


Lab Team

Tony Mertz, Faculty Scientist

Isabelle Mittelstadt, Lab Research Technician

Christopher Collins, Visiting Graduate Student

Cameron Cordero, Graduate Research Assistant

Margo Coxon, Visiting Graduate Student

Alyssa Hurley, Graduate Research Assistant

Vanessa Lopez, Graduate Research Assistant

Brittany Vandenberg, Visiting Graduate Student