Lab leader: Peter Lewis
Assistant Professor of Biomolecular Chemistry
Chromatin Dynamics in Development and Cancer
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.