Area of Interest
Research in my laboratory lies on the interface between chemistry and biology. Our goal is to use novel chemical tools and in vivo assay systems to gain insight on how genes are regulated in mammalian cells. Specifically, my recent work focuses on understanding the transitions between active (euchromatic) and inactive (heterochromatic) genes, with a desire to quantify the dynamics of the enzymatic machinery acting on chromatin to lead to heritable changes in gene expression. These epigenetic modifications have been increasing implicated as having a key role in cancer initiation and progression. My goal is to understand the basic mechanisms underlying these complex regulatory networks, that when disrupted can lead to human cancer.
Our approach to understanding chromatin biology involves the use of chemical tools to manipulate cellular events, which allows us to examine the direct activity of individual enzymes on complex substrates such as chromatin. We created a powerful tool called the Chromatin in vivo Assay (CiA) mouse enabling us to selectively control chromatin with defined activities in living cells. Using this technology, we examine the requirements for creating an “epigenetic state”, a stable regulatory mechanism capable of transmitting information through cellular generations. My lab also has a drug discovery arm that leverages our unique system to screen for small molecules that inhibit epigenetic pathways, both for research purposes and in search of leads for future therapeutics.