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Herbert Tabor, M.D.

Senior Investigator

Pharmacology Section, Laboratory of Biochemistry and Genetics


Building 8, Room 223
8 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20814


Research Topics

Research Goal

The purpose of our research is to learn more about the physiological function and importance of the polyamines, and their role in health and disease.

Current Research


The polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine are major polybasic compounds in all living cells.  Research indicates that these amines are important for many systems related to growth and differentiation.  We are interested in their physiologic functions, mechanisms of polyamine synthesis, regulation of their biosynthesis and degradation, and how they act in vivo.  For this purpose, we have constructed null mutants in each of the biosynthetic steps in both Escherichia coli and in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.  These mutants cannot make these amines; hence they are very useful tools to study the physiological effects due to their deprivation.

Our present research focuses on extending our studies on the biochemistry, regulation, and genetics of these amines and of the biosynthetic enzymes in S. cerevisiae and E. coli.  Our work has demonstrated that the polyamines are required for growth of the organisms, their sporulation, maintenance of the killer dsRNA virus, protection against oxidative damage, protection against elevated temperatures, fidelity of protein biosynthesis, and for the maintenance of mitochondria.  We have constructed clones that overproduce the various enzymes and have studied the sequence and structural characteristics of these enzymes.  Our research concentrates on the structure and regulation of ornithine decarboxylase, spermidine synthase, spermine synthase, and S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase.​


Applying our Research

The polyamines are important in growth and development, particularly in the growth of cancer cells.  We hope that this research will lead to effective therapies for various diseases such as cancer.

Need for Further Study

The physiologic function of these amines in bacteria, plants, and eukaryotes requires further study.  This is particularly true for mammalian cells, including cancer cells.  Eventually, we should consider studies on analogs with therapeutic importance.


  • Intern in Medicine, New Haven Hospital, Yale Medical School, 1942-1943
  • Researcher, Department of Biological Chemistry, Harvard Medical School, 1941
  • Student, College of the City of New York, 1933-1935
  • M.D., Harvard Medical School, 1941
  • A.B., Harvard College, 1937

Selected Publications

  1. Crouch J, Yu JH, Shankar AG, Tabor HK. "We don't know her history, her background": adoptive parents' perspectives on whole genome sequencing results. J Genet Couns. 2015;24(1):67-77.
  2. Yu JH, Harrell TM, Jamal SM, Tabor HK, Bamshad MJ. Attitudes of genetics professionals toward the return of incidental results from exome and whole-genome sequencing. Am J Hum Genet. 2014;95(1):77-84.
  3. Jarvik GP, Amendola LM, Berg JS, Brothers K, Clayton EW, Chung W, Evans BJ, Evans JP, Fullerton SM, Gallego CJ, Garrison NA, Gray SW, Holm IA, Kullo IJ, Lehmann LS, McCarty C, Prows CA, Rehm HL, Sharp RR, Salama J, Sanderson S, Van Driest SL, Williams MS, Wolf SM, Wolf WA, eMERGE Act-ROR Committee and CERC Committee, CSER Act-ROR Working Group, Burke W. Return of genomic results to research participants: the floor, the ceiling, and the choices in between. Am J Hum Genet. 2014;94(6):818-26.
  4. Yu JH, Crouch J, Jamal SM, Bamshad MJ, Tabor HK. Attitudes of non-African American focus group participants toward return of results from exome and whole genome sequencing. Am J Med Genet A. 2014;164A(9):2153-60.
  5. Gordon AS, Tabor HK, Johnson AD, Snively BM, Assimes TL, Auer PL, Ioannidis JP, Peters U, Robinson JG, Sucheston LE, Wang D, Sotoodehnia N, Rotter JI, Psaty BM, Jackson RD, Herrington DM, O'Donnell CJ, Reiner AP, Rich SS, Rieder MJ, Bamshad MJ, Nickerson DA, NHLBI GO Exome Sequencing Project. Quantifying rare, deleterious variation in 12 human cytochrome P450 drug-metabolism genes in a large-scale exome dataset. Hum Mol Genet. 2014;23(8):1957-63.
This page was last updated on December 8th, 2015