Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis

Peter Lewis

Assistant Professor, Biomolecular Chemistry, Epigenetics


  • B.S., University of Virginia
  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship, The Rockefeller University

Research Description

The human genome is estimated to contain ~20,000 unique genes, and although every gene exists within every cell of the body, only a small fraction of genes are activated in any given cell type. The establishment of cell type-specific gene expression patterns helps define cell identity during differentiation and development. In order to preserve cell identity, lineage-specific gene expression must be maintained, and failure to stably silence genes normally expressed in other lineages has the potential to cause developmental defects or promote diseases such as cancer.

My research program is rooted in the idea that chromatin, the physiologically relevant form of eukaryotic genomes, contains an indexing system, sometimes referred to as a “histone or epigenetic code”, that represents a fundamental regulatory mechanism that operates outside of the DNA sequence itself. Covalent modifications to DNA and histones – the proteins that package our genome – are implicated in the epigenetic regulation of gene expression and the stable maintenance of cell type-specific gene expression patterns and cellular identity. Recently, genome-wide sequencing technologies have allowed the notable discovery of somatic mutations in chromatin modifying factors in many types of human cancers. The collective number of oncogenic mutations has led to the emerging view of “driver mutations” in chromatin regulators underlying many human cancers.

The long-term goals of my research program include elucidation of the molecular mechanisms essential for genome management, and understanding the contribution of chromatin structure to the establishment and maintenance of gene expression programs involved in normal and abnormal (neoplastic) development.

Selected Publications

  • Brown ZZ, Muller MM, Lewis PW, Muir TW.
    Targeted Histone Peptides: Insights into the Spatial Regulation of the Methyltransferase PRC2 using a Surrogate of Heterotypic Chromatin.
    Angew Chem Int Ed. 2015 Apr 14 (Epub)
  • Noh KM*, Maze I*, Zhao D, Xiang B, Wenderski W, Lewis PW, Shen L, Li H, Allis CD.
    ATRX tolerates activity-dependent histone H3 “methyl/phos switching” to maintain repetitive element silencing in neurons.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci.,2014 Dec 23
  • Funato K, Major T, Lewis PW, Allis CD, Tabar V
    Human ESC-based modeling of pediatric gliomas by K27M mutation in histone H3.3 variant.
    Science, 2014  Dec 19;346(6216):1529-33
  • Venneti S, Santi M, Felicella MM, Tarilin D, Phillips JJ, Sullivan LM, Martinez D, Perry A, Lewis PW, Thompson CB, Judkins AR.
    A sensitive and specific histopathologic prognostic marker for H3F3A K27M mutant pediatric glioblastomas.
    Acta Neuropathol.,  2014 Nov;128(5):743-53
  • Becht D, Gielen GG, Korshunov A, Pfister SM, Rousso C, Faury D, Fiset PO, Benlimane N, Lewis PW, Lu C, Allis CD, Kieran MW, Ligon KL, Peitsch T, Ellezam B, Albrecht S, Jabado N.
    Specific detection of methionine 27 mutation in histone H3 variants (H3K27M) in fixed tissue from high-grade astrocytomas.
    Acta Neuropathol.,  2014 Nov;128(5):733-41
  • Brown ZZ*, Muller MM*, Jain SU, Allis CD, Lewis PW, Muir TW.
    Strategy for ‘detoxification’ of a cancer-derived histone mutant based on mapping its interaction with methyltransferase PRC2.
    J Am Chem Soc.,  2014 Oct 1;136(39):13498-501
  • Buczkowicz P*, Hoeman C*, Rakopoulos P, Pajovic S, Letourneau L, Dzamba M, Morrison A, LewisPW, Bouffet E, Bartels U, Zuccaro J, Agnihotri S, Ryall S, Barszczyk M, Chornenkyy Y, Bourgey M, Bourque G, Montpetit A, Cordero F, Castelo-Branco P, Mangerel J, Tabori U, Ho PKC, Huang A, Taylor KR, Mackay A, Bendel AE, Nazarian J, Fangusaro JR, Karajannis M, Zagzag D, Foreman NK, Donson A, Hegert JV, Smith A, Chan J, Lafay-Cousin L, Dunn S, Hukin J, Dunham C, Scheinemann K, Michaud J, Zelcer S, Ramsay D, Cain J, Brennan C, Souweidane MM, Jones C, Allis CD, Brudno M, Becher OJ, Hawkins C.
    Comprehensive genomic analysis of diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas unravels three molecular subgroups and a novel cancer driver ACVR1
    Nat Genet., 2014 May;46(5):451-6
  •  Lewis PW and Allis CD
    Poisoning the ‘histone code’ in pediatric gliomagenesis.
    Cell Cycle, 2013 Oct 15;12(20):3241-2
  • Black JC*, Manning AL*, Van Rechem C*, Kim J*, Ladd B, Cho J, Pineda CM, Murphy N, Daniels DL, Montagna C, Lewis PW, Glass K, Allis CD, Dyson NJ, Getz G, Whetstine JR
    KDM4A lysine demethylase induces site-specific copy gain and rereplication of regions amplified in tumors.
    Cell, 2013 August 1;154(1-15).
  • Lewis PW, Muller MM, Koletsky MS, Cordero F, Lin S, Banaszynski LA, Garcia B, Muir TW, Becher OJ, Allis CD
    Inhibition of PRC2 methyltransferase activity by a gain-of-function H3 mutation in Pediatric Glioblastoma.
    Science, 2013 May 17;340(614):857-61.
  • Elsasser SJ*, Huang H*, Lewis PW, Chin JW, Allis CD, Patel DJ
    DAXX envelops a histone H3.3-H4 dimer for H3.3-specific recognition.
    Nature, 2012 Nov 22;491(7425):560-5.
  • Iwase S, Xian B, Ghos, Rent T, Lewis PW, Cochrane JC, Allis CD, Picketts DJ, Patel DJ, Li H, Shi Y.
    ATRX ADD domain links an atypical histone methylation recognition mechanism to human mental-retardation syndrome.
    Nat Struct Mol Biol.,  2011 Jun 12;18(7):769-76.
  • Elsasser SJ, Allis CD, Lewis PW
    New epigenetic drivers of cancers.
    Science,  2011 Mar 4;331(6021):1145-6.
  • Banaszynski LA*, Allis CD, Lewis PW*
    Histone variants in metazoan development.
    Dev Cell,  2010 Nov 16; 19:(5) 662-74.
  • Lewis PW*, Elsasser SJ*, Noh KM, Stadler SC, Allis CD
    The H3.3-specific histone chaperone Daxx cooperates with ATRX in replication-independent chromatin assembly at telomeres.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci USA,  2010 Aug 10;107(32):14075-80
  • Goldberg AD, Banaszynski LA*, Noh KM*, Lewis PW, Elsaesser SJ, Stadler S, Dewell S, Law M, Guo X, Li X, Wen D, Chapgier A, DeKelver RC, Miller JC, Lee YL, Boydston EA, Holmes MC, Gregory PD, Greally JM, Rafii S, Yang C, Scambler PJ, Garrick D, Gibbons RJ, Higgs DR, Cristea IM, Urnov FD, Zheng D, Allis CD
    Distinct factors control histone variant H3.3 localization at specific genomic regions.
    Cell,  2010 Mar 5;140(5):678-91.*authors contributed equally to this work