Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences

Staff Profile

Dr Simon Whitehall

Senior Lecturer

Background

Current Research

Epigenetic Control of Gene Expression and Genome Integrity

My laboratory studies how the modulation of chromatin is used by eukaryotic cells to regulate fundamental processes such as gene expression and genome stability.

PhD VACANCIES - we are always open to informal enquiries from prospective PhD students, whether Home/EU or non-EU. Please feel free to email me if you are interested (simon.whitehall@ncl.ac.uk).

Previous Positions

1989-1992 PhD, Gatsby Charitable Foundation Studentship, University of Sussex

During my PhD I studied bacterial transcription in Prof Ray Dixon’s laboratory. My research centred upon the role of DNA topology in control of transcription initiation from σ54-dependent promoters.

1993-1996 HFSPO Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of California San Diego, La Jolla USA

During my first post-doctoral position in Dr Peter Geiduschek’s laboratory I studied the enzymology of RNA polymerase III.  I identified a backtracking activity in RNA polymerase III and also studied the assembly of transcription factors at the U6 promoter.

1996-1999 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow,  Cancer Research UK, London Research Institute

My second post-doctoral position was in Prof Nic Jones’ laboratory and focussed upon the control of cell cycle-dependent transcription. Here my research utilised the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe as a model system.


Research

Epigenetic Control of Gene Expression and Genome Integrity

The human genome is made up of nearly two metres of DNA that must be compacted into a nucleus of just a few microns in diameter. This is achieved by packaging DNA with histone proteins into a complex called chromatin. Importantly, the modulation of chromatin structure is a key mechanism for regulating the function of the underlying DNA and as such, chromatin represents a fundamental layer of epigenetic control. Indeed, defects in chromatin are associated with gene dysregulation, genome instability and a number of diseases states that include cancers and neurodegenerative disorders.

We primarily focus on the role of histone chaperones that control the assembly and disassembly chromatin. We also study how chromatin is employed to keep control of mobile genetic elements and so maintain genome integrity. Our experiments predominantly utilise the fission yeast, Schizosaccharomyces pombe which is very easy to manipulate genetically. As the processes and proteins that we study have been highly conserved throughout evolution, our fission yeast studies provide insight into how the function of chromatin is controlled in humans and how aberrant chromatin structure results in disease states.


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Publications