Department of Cell Biology

Moazed Lab

Heterochromatin and mechanisms of epigenetic memory


Research in the Moazed lab is focused on the remarkable ability of heterochromatic domains of DNA to heritably silence genes and transposons – functions that are indispensable for maintenance of cell identity and genome stability. Our lab has demonstrated that nuclear RNAi and other RNA decay pathways play critical roles in heterochromatin assembly and elucidated how the RNAi machinery localizes to specific chromosome regions to establish heterochromatin. We have further demonstrated that although heterochromatin can mediate its own epigenetic propagation independently of DNA sequence, RNAi and specific DNA sequences are also crucial for heterochromatin maintenance. By deciphering the underlying mechanisms that assemble and epigenetically maintain heterochromatin, our studies provide a foundation for understanding how heterochromatin contributes to epigenetic maintenance of cell identity and how it decays during aging and in diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration. Our research currently focuses on the following areas:

  • Epigenetic maintenance of heterochromatin
  • Noncoding RNAs and nuclear RNAi
  • Heterochromatin-associated RNA decay
  • Structure of heterochromatin complexes
  • Self/non-self RNA surveillance mechanisms