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Sean Taverna Laboratory
The Taverna Laboratory studies histone marks, such as lysine methylation and acetylation, and how they contribute to an epigenetic/histone code that dictates chromatin-templated functions like transcriptional activation and gene silencing. Our lab uses biochemistry and cell biology in a variety of model organisms to explore connections between gene regulation and proteins that write and read histone marks, many of which have clear links to human diseases like leukemia and other cancers. We also investigate links between small RNAs and histone marks involved in gene silencing.
Dr. Yegnasubramanian directs a Laboratory of Cancer Molecular Genetics and Epigenetics at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC), and is also the Director of the SKCCC Next Generation Sequencing Center.
Our lab research is focused on understanding the complex interplay between genetic and epigenetic alterations in carcinogenesis and disease progression, and to exploit this understanding in developing novel biomarkers for diagnosis and risk stratification as well as in identifying targets for therapeutic intervention.
Normal and neoplastic cells respond to genome integrity threats in a variety of different ways. Furthermore, the nature of these responses are critical both for cancer pathogenesis and for cancer treatment. DNA damaging agents activate several signal transduction pathways in damaged cells which trigger cell fate decisions such as proliferation, genomic repair, differentiation, and cell death. For normal cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., a carcinogen) to activate processes culminating in DNA repair or in cell death might promote neoplastic transformation. For cancer cells, failure of a DNA damaging agent (i.e., an antineoplastic drug) to promote differentiation or cell death might undermine cancer treatment.
Our laboratory has discovered the most common known somatic genome alteration in human prostatic carcinoma cells. The DNA lesion, hypermethylation of deoxycytidine nucleotides in the promoter of a carcinogen-defense enzyme gene, appears to result in inactivation of th...e gene and a resultant increased vulnerability of prostatic cells to carcinogens.
Studies underway in the laboratory have been directed at characterizing the genomic abnormality further, and at developing methods to restore expression of epigenetically silenced genes and/or to augment expression of other carcinogen-defense enzymes in prostate cells as prostate cancer prevention strategies.
Another major interest pursued in the laboratory is the role of chronic or recurrent inflammation as a cause of prostate cancer. Genetic studies of familial prostate cancer have identified defects in genes regulating host inflammatory responses to infections.
A newly described prostate lesion, proliferative inflammatory atrophy (PIA), appears to be an early prostate cancer precursor. Current experimental approaches feature induction of chronic prostate inflammation in laboratory mice and rats, and monitoring the consequences on the development of PIA and prostate cancer. view more