A Chemical Biology Approach to Epigenetics

A Chemical Biology Approach to Epigenetics
Reported by
Sarah Webb

Posted April 14, 2010


Particularly in the last decade, researchers have begun to understand the biological implications, not only of the human genetic code itself, but also the various ways in which DNA strands are packaged and processed. These chemical modifications, known collectively as epigenetic effects when they affect gene expression, represent fertile research territory for understanding the biological basis of diseases such as diabetes and cancer, and possibly providing new treatments.

On January 25, 2010, at the meeting of the Chemical Biology Discussion Group at the New York Academy of Sciences, researchers discussed their findings in two growing areas of epigenetics research. Hening Lin and Anthony Sauve presented results from each of their respective laboratories looking at the chemistry and biology of sirtuins and how those enzymes are involved in cellular metabolism. Song Tan described new molecular and structural biological data that offers clues as to how proteins interact with chromatin’s subunits, the nucleosome.

Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and multimedia from this event.

Web Site

Nature Insight: Epigenetics
A special supplement on epigenetics was published May 24, 2007.


Esteller M. 2008. Epigenetics in Biology and Medicine. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.

Jeanteur P, ed. 2005. Epigenetics and Chromatin (Progress in Molecular and Subcellular Biology). Springer, New York.

Verdin E, ed. 2006. Histone Deacetylases: Transcriptional Regulation and Other Cellular Functions (Cancer Drug Discovery and Development). Humana Press, Totowa, NJ.


Barbera AJ, Chodaparambil JV, Kelley-Clarke B, et al. 2006. The nucleosomal surface as a docking station for Kaposi's Sarcoma herpesvirus LANA. Science 311: 856-861.

Du J, Jiang H, Lin H. 2009. Investigating the ADP-ribosyltransferase activity of sirtuins with NAD analogues and 32P-NAD. Biochemistry 48: 2878-2890.

Imai S-I, Armstrong CM, Kaeberlein M, Guarente L. 2000. Transcriptional silencing and longevity protein Sir2 is an NAD-dependent histone deacetylase. Nature 403: 795-800.

Renault L, Nassar N, Vetter, I, et al. 1998. The 1.7Å crystal structure of the regulator of chromosome condensation (RCC1) reveals a seven-bladed propeller. Nature 392: 97-101.

Sauve AA. 2009. Pharmaceutical strategies for activating sirtuins. Curr. Pharm. Des. 15: 45-56.

Sauve AA, Wolberger C, Schramm VL, Boeke JD. 2006. The biochemistry of sirtuins. Ann Rev. Biochem. 75: 435-465.

Sauve AA, Moir RD, Schramm VL, Willis IM. 2005. Chemical activation of Sir2-dependent silencing by relief of nicotinamide inhibition. Mol. Cell 17: 595-601. Full Text

Yang H, Yang T, Baur JA, et al. 2007. Nutrient-sensitive mitochondrial NAD+ levels dictate cell survival. Cell 130: 1095-1107. Full Text


Hening Lin, PhD

Cornell University
e-mail | web site | publications

Hening Lin is an assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Cornell University. He completed his BS degree at Tsinghua University in China in 1998 and his PhD in 2003 at Columbia University, working in the laboratory of Virginia Cornish. Lin was a postdoctoral researcher in Christopher Walsh's laboratory at Harvard Medical School from 2003 to 2006.

Anthony A. Sauve, PhD

Weill Cornell Medical College
e-mail | web site | publications

Anthony Sauve is an associate professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He was awarded a BA in chemistry at the University of California Berkeley in 1986 and a PhD in chemistry at Princeton University in 1997. Sauve completed postdoctoral research with Vern Schramm at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Song Tan, PhD

Pennsylvania State University
e-mail | web site | publications

Song Tan is an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Pennsylvania State University. After completing a BS in physics at Cornell University, Tan was awarded his PhD in molecular biology from the University of Cambridge. He then pursued postdoctoral research in structural biology at the ETH-Zürich.

Sarah Webb

Before hanging up her labcoat, Sarah Webb earned a PhD in bioorganic chemistry from Indiana University. Based in Brooklyn, NY, she writes about science, health, and technology for many publications including Scientific American, Discover, Science Careers, Nature Biotechnology, and ACS Chemical Biology.