Department of Epigenetics

Virtually all 37.2 trillion cells in our bodies have the same DNA, the spiraling molecule that contains the genetic instructions required to make us who we are. But if every cell works from the same playbook, how and why does the human body have so many different types of cells? Why do some become skin cells while others become muscle cells, heart cells or brain cells?

The answer is epigenetics — a complex set of processes that determine when and to what extent certain genetic instructions are carried out. Epigenetic processes are vital for healthy cellular function and, when things go awry, they can play major roles in disease.

Scientists in VAI’s Department of Epigenetics seek to understand how epigenetic changes may either protect us from or predispose us to complex diseases such as cancer, Parkinson’s and metabolic disorders. By investigating the epigenetic processes that fine-tune DNA, our scientists aim to pinpoint the origins of these complex diseases and determine how they are impacted by our past and present, and how they influence future generations.

Recent Publications

Zeng TB, Pierce N, Liao J, Singh P, Lau K, Zhou W, Szabó P. 2022. EHMT2 suppresses the variation of transcriptional switches in the mouse embryo. PLOS Genet.

Bolouri H, Ries R, Pardo L, Hylkema T, Zhou W, Smith JL, Leonti A, Loken M, Farrar JE, Triche Jr TJ, Meshinchi S. 2021. A B-cell development gene regulatory network is activated in infant AML. PLOS One.

Costello KR, Leung A, Trac C, Lee M, Basam M, Pospisilik JA, Schones DE. 2021. Sequence features of retrotransposons allow for epigenetic variability. eLife 10:e71104.

Bacelis J, Compagno M, George S, Pospisilik A, Brundin P, Torinsson A, Brundin L. 2021. Decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease after rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis: a nested case-control study with matched cases and controls. J Parkinson’s Dis.

Nakamura N, Shi X, Darabi R, Li Y. 2021. Hypoxia in cell reprogramming and the epigenetic regulations. Front Cell Dev Bio 9: 609984.

Kaeding AJ … Triche Jr. T, Kornblau SM, Kolb EA, Tarlock K, Meshinchi S. 2021. Mesothelin is a novel cell surface disease marker and potential therapeutic target in acute myeloid leukemia. Blood Adv 5 (9): 2350–2361.

Carpenter BL, Remba TK, Thomas SL, Madaj Z, Brink L, Tiedemann RL, Odendaal HJ, Jones PA. 2021. Ooctye age and preconceptual alcohol use are highly correlated with epigenetic imprinting of a noncoding RNA (nc886). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 118(12):e2026580118.

Liao J, Zeng TB, Pierce N, Tran DA, Singh P, Mann JR, Szabó PE. 2021. Prenatal correction of IGF2 to rescue the growth phenotype in mouse models of Beckwith-Wiedemann and Silver-Russell syndromes. Cell Rep 34(6):108729.

Slaughter MJ, Shanle EK, Khan A, Chua KF, Hong T, Boxer LD, Allis CD, Josefowicz SZ, Garcia BA, Rothbart SB, Strahl BD, Davis IJ. 2021. HDAC inhibition results in widespread alteration of the histone acetylation landscape and BRD4 targeting to gene bodies. Cell Rep 34(3):108638.