New group leader joins the Epigenetics research programme

New group leader joins the Epigenetics research programme

Key points:

  • Dr Maria Christophorou joins the Institute as a group leader in the Epigenetics research programme.
  • Dr Christophorou’s research focuses on the mechanisms that control epigenetic regulators, including post-translational modifications of proteins, during development.
  • Dr Christophorou joins the Institute from the MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh where she was a Principal Investigator.

The Institute is delighted to welcome Dr Maria Christophorou to the Institute as a new group leader within the Institute’s Epigenetics research programme. Maria joins the Institute from the MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh.

Maria and her team aim to understand how developmental cues and cellular stresses are translated into the epigenetic changes that govern the cellular and functional diversity of the body. Her research uses biochemistry, cell and molecular biology and mouse model systems to understand the mechanisms that modulate the function of epigenetic regulators, how these mechanisms are perturbed in disease and how they may be targeted for therapeutic effect.

Institute Director, Professor Michael Wakelam, said: “I’m delighted to welcome Maria as she joins the Institute as part of our world-leading epigenetics research programme. Her research addresses fundamental questions about how cell identity is established in development and about cellular responses in a changing environment. I look forward to seeing the synergies develop between Maria’s areas of research and those that already exist at the Institute, along with witnessing the further development of Maria’s already excellent scientific career.”

Maria’s research on post-translational modifications investigates how these fine-tune protein function by determining when, where and how proteins work. Mistakes in such modifications can deregulate proteins and perturb normal cellular function. Maria’s research includes a focus on the largely unexplored protein modification of citrullination. Abnormal citrullination is a feature of autoimmune diseases, neurodegeneration, atherosclerosis and cancer.

Dr Christophorou said: “The Babraham Institute is an ideal home for our research, which lies at the crossroads between cell signalling and epigenetics. The Institute combines a long and proud tradition of making seminal contributions in both fields with cutting-edge facilities and a passion for exploiting basic research to safeguard human health. I am thrilled to be joining the world-class research groups in the Epigenetics programme, while having the opportunity to develop collaborations with labs leading in cell signalling research. I am delighted to see that my new colleagues share my vision that one of the next frontiers in epigenetics is to understand how signalling to chromatin impacts on cell identity and function and I am grateful for their enthusiasm and welcoming support.”

Maria obtained a BSc in Biology at MIT as a Fulbright Scholar and took her first research steps at the Whitehead Institute as part of the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme and at the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING) as a summer student. She did her PhD with Professor Gerard Evan at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), where she dissected the relative contributions of different p53 activating signals towards tumour suppression using mouse models of conditional p53 perturbation.

After a fruitful decade in the US, she returned to Europe to work with Professor Tony Kouzarides at the Gurdon Institute, University of Cambridge. Her work there (funded by Long-Term Postdoctoral Fellowships from EMBO and HFSP) uncovered a novel role for the peptidylarginine deiminase PADI4 in the regulation of pluripotency and a molecular mechanism by which PADI4 regulates chromatin condensation.

Following this, Maria started her independent research career at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh in 2015 as a Chancellor’s fellow. She has been a Sir Henry Dale fellow, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Royal Society, since 2015. She was awarded the Wellcome-Beit Prize in December 2014.

Professor Wolf Reik, Head of the Epigenetics research programme, said: “We are very excited about Maria joining the Epigenetics programme as a group leader and colleague. Her work on signalling inputs into epigenetic modifiers is cutting edge and has real promise to make inroads into how the environment and nutrition impacts the epigenome”.

 

Notes to Editors

Press contact
Dr Louisa Wood, Communications Manager, louisa.wood@babraham.ac.uk, 01223 496230

About the Babraham Institute
The Babraham Institute undertakes world-class life sciences research to generate new knowledge of biological mechanisms underpinning ageing, development and the maintenance of health. Our research focuses on cellular signalling, gene regulation and the impact of epigenetic regulation at different stages of life. By determining how the body reacts to dietary and environmental stimuli and manages microbial and viral interactions, we aim to improve wellbeing and support healthier ageing. The Institute is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation, through an Institute Core Capability Grant and also receives funding from other UK research councils, charitable foundations, the EU and medical charities.