Welcome To The Taverna Lab at the Center for Epigenetics


Sean Taverna

Associate Professor, Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences; IBBS Epigenetics Center 


Research Focus: Histone and chromatin modifications, epigenetics and gene function, identification of histone binding modules, and small RNA directed gene silencing.

Eukaryotic cells package their genomes in the form of chromatin, which is comprised of histone proteins and DNA.  Modification of chromatin by chemical marks such as methylation and acetylation affects how cellular machineries interpret the genome. The Taverna laboratory studies 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 we 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.

Representative Publications:

  1. Stephens, K.E., Zhou, W., Ji, Z., He, S., Ji, H., Guan, Y., Taverna, S.D. Sex differences in gene regulation in the dorsal root ganglion after nerve injury. BMC Genomics 20(1):147, 2019.  Pub Med Reference
  2. West, K.L., Byrum, S.D., Mackintosh, S.G., Edmonson, R.D., Taverna, S.D., Tackett, A.J. Proteomic Characterization of the Arsenic Response Locus in S. cerevisiae. Epigenetics 14(2):130-145, 2019. Pub Med Reference
  3. Stephens, K.E., Chen, Z., Sivanesan, E., Raja, S.N., Linderoth, B., Taverna, S.D., Guan, Y. RNA-seq of Spinal Cord from Nerve-injured Rats after Spinal Cord Stimulation. Mol. Pain Jan-Dec;14:1744806918817429, 2018.  Pub Med Reference
  4. Su, Z., Wang, F., Lee, J.H., Stephens, K.E., Papazyan, R., Voronina, E., Krautkramer, K.A., Thorpe, J.J., Boersma, M.D., Kuznetsov, V., Miller, M.D., Taverna, S.D., Phillips, Jr., G.N., Denu, J.M. Reader Domain Specificity and Lysine Demethylase-4 Family Function. Nat. Commun. 7:13387, 2016. Pub Med Reference
  5. Gilbert, T.M., McDaniel, S.L., Byrum, S.D., Cades, J.A., Dancy, B.C.R., Wade, H., Tackett, A.J., Strahl, B.D., Taverna, S.D. An H3K36me3 binding PWWP protein targets the NuA3 acetyltransferase complex to coordinate transcriptional elongation at coding regions. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics 13(11):2883-2895, 2014. Pub Med Reference
  6. Papazyan, R., Voronina, E., Chapman, J.R., Luperchio, T.R., Gilbert, T.M., Meier, E., Mackintosh, S.G., Shabanowitz, J., Tackett, A.J., Reddy, K.L., Coyne, R.S., Hunt, D.F., Liu, Y., Taverna, S.D. Methylation of histone H3K23 blocks DNA damage in pericentric heterochromatin during meiosis. eLife  3:e02996, 2014. Pub Med Reference
  7. Cieniewicz, A.M., Moreland, L., Ringel, A.E., Mackintosh, S.G., Raman, A., Gilbert, T.M., Wolberger, C., Tackett, A.J., Taverna, S.D. The bromodomain of Gcn5 regulates site-specificity of lysine acetylation on histone H3. Molecular and Cellular Proteomics 13(11):2896-2910, 2014. Pub Med Reference
  8. Yan, G., Eller, M.S., Elm, C., Larocca, C.A., Ryu, B., Panova, I.P., Dancy, B.M., Bowers, E.M., Meyers, D., Lareau, L., Cole, P.A., Taverna, S.D., Alani, R.M. Selective Inhibition of p300 HAT Blocks Cell Cycle Progression, Induces Cellular Senescence, and Inhibits the DNA Damage Response in Melanoma Cells. J Invest Dermatol. 133(10): 2444-2452, 2013. Pub Med Reference
  9. Dancy, B.C., Ming, S.A., Papazyan, R., Jelinek, C.A., Majumdar, A., Sun, Y., Dancy, B.M., Drury, W.J. 3rd, Cotter, R.J., Taverna, S.D., Cole, P.A. Azalysine analogues as probes for protein lysine deacetylation and demethylation. J Am Chem Soc. 134(11): 5138-5148, 2012. Pub Med Reference
  10. Taverna, S.D., Ueberheide, B.M., Liu, Y., Tackett, A.J., Diaz, R., Shabanowitz, J., Chait, B.T., Hunt, D.F., Allis, C.D.  Long-distance combinatorial linkage between methylation and acetylation on H3 N-termini.  Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 104:2086-2091, 2007.  Pub Med Reference
  11. Taverna, S.D., Li, H., Ruthenburg, A.J., Allis, C.D., Patel, D.J.  How chromatin binding modules interpret histone modifications.  Nat. Struct. Mol. Bio. 14:1025-1040, 2007.  Pub Med Reference
  12. Taverna, S.D., Ilin, S., Rogers, R.S., Tanny, J.C., Lavender, H., Li, H., Baker, L., Boyle, J., Blair, L.P., Chait, B.T., Patel, D.J., Aitchison, J.D., Tackett, A.J., Allis, C.D.  Yng1 PHD finger binding to histone H3 trimethylated at K4 promotes NuA3 HAT activity at K14 of H3 and transcription at a subset of targeted ORFs. Molecular Cell. 24:785-796, 2006.  Pub Med Reference
  13. Taverna S.D., Coyne, R.S.,  Allis, C.D.  Methylation of histone H3 at lysine 9 targets programmed DNA elimination in Tetrahymena.  Cell 110:701-711, 2002.  Pub Med Reference

Other graduate programs in which Dr. Taverna participates: 

Human Genetics Program