Sean Dixon Taverna, Ph.D.

Headshot of Sean Dixon Taverna
  • Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences

Research Interests

Small RNA directed gene silencing; Identification of histone binding modules; Epigenetics and gene function; Histone and chromatin modifications more


Dr. Sean Taverna is an assistant professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences, oncology and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His research focuses on histone and chromatin modifications, epigenetics and gene function, identification of histone binding modules, and small RNA directed gene silencing.

His lab, the Taverna Laboratory, studies how histone marks and the proteins that “read” them may dictate chromatin-templated functions like transcriptional activation and gene silencing, as well as how these on/off states are inherited/ propagated.

Dr. Taverna was awarded the 2011 Mentor of the Year award from the JHU Graduate Student Association. more


  • Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences
  • Associate Professor of Oncology
  • Joint Appointment in Medicine

Departments / Divisions

Centers & Institutes



  • Ph.D.; University of Virginia (Virginia) (2004)

Research & Publications

Research Summary

Dr. Taverna and the Taverna Laboratory study how histone marks contribute to an “epigenetic/histone code” that may dictate chromatin-templated functions like transcriptional activation and gene silencing, as well as how these on/off states are inherited/ propagated.

For example, transcription-modulating protein complexes with PHD finger motifs (methyl lysine “readers”) or Bromodomains (acetyl lysine “readers”) often have enzymatic activities that “write” these same histone marks. To explore these connections they use biochemistry and cell biology in a variety of model organisms ranging from mammals to yeast and ciliates. The lab also investigates links between small RNAs and histone marks involved in gene silencing. Importantly, many histone-binding proteins have clear links to human disease, notably leukemia and other cancers.

Selected Publications

View all on PubMed

Blair LP, Avaritt NL, Huang R, Cole PA, Taverna, SD, Tackett AJ. “MassSQUIRM: An assay for quantitative measurement of lysine demethylase activity.” Epigenetics. 6(4), 490-499, 2011.

Taverna SD, Cole PA. “Drug discovery: Reader's block.” Nature. 468, 1050-1051, 2010.

Gradolatto A, Smart SK, Byrum S, Rogers RS, Lavender H, Kolar E, Aitchison JD, Taverna SD, and Tackett AJ. “A noncanonical bromodomain in the AAA ATPase protein Yta7 directs chromosomal positioning and barrier chromatin activity.” Mol Cell Bio, 2009.

Smart SK, Mackintosh SG, Edmondson RD, Taverna SD, Tackett AJ. “Mapping the local protein interactome of the NuA3 histone acetyltransferase.” Protein Sci. 18, 1987-1997, 2009.

Taverna, S.D., Li, H., Ruthenburg, A.J., Allis, C.D. and Patel, D.J. “How chromatin binding modules interpret histone modifications.” Nat. Struct. Mol. Bio. 14:1025-1040, 2007.

Contact for Research Inquiries

John G. Rangos, Sr., Building
855 N. Wolfe Street
Baltimore, MD 21205 map
Phone: 410-502-0790

Academic Affiliations & Courses

Graduate Program Affiliation

Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology (BCMB) Program

Human Genetics Program

Activities & Honors


  • Mentor of the Year award, JHU Graduate Student Association, 2011

Videos & Media

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