The genetic material of virtually all eukaryotes exists as chromatin. The basic unit of chromatin is a nucleosome, an octameric complex of histones H2A, H2B, H3 and H4, around which about 150 base pairs of DNA are wrapped. Chromatin is a complex and highly dynamic environment. Nucleosomes are differentiated by variants of histones H2A and H3 and by many histone post-translational modifications, chromatin-associated proteins and linker histones. Nucleosomes are positioned both by the underlying DNA sequence and by remodeling enzymes and histone chaperones that can mobilize, disassemble or replace histone subunits. In most eukaryotes, chromatin is also modified by methylation of cytosine bases in DNA.


Our goal is to understand how chromatin components interrelate and integrate to regulate transcriptional activity. We combine genetics and biochemistry with genomics and computational analysis to study DNA methylation, deposition of histone variants, chromatin associated proteins and nucleosome remodeling. Our primary model organism is Arabidopsis, which has a compact, gene-rich genome with extensive DNA methylation and numerous viable mutants in key chromatin-related proteins. These features provide an exciting opportunity to analyze chromatin on a genome-wide scale.

About our Research

Our lab studies cytosine methylation as a mechanism for epigenetic inheritance.

We use Arabidopsis alongside other evolutionary significant species to understand how the pattern of methylation is both inherited and altered over generations to influence developmental processes such as flowering.

We are working with mathematical modellers to understand how methylation is controlled and how it can subtly manipulate gene expression.

We are also interested in the mechanism of demethylation during genomic imprinting.

Zilberman Lab is located at John Innes Centre, Norwich UK.

Lab Members

Alumni of the Zilberman lab

  • Assaf Zemach, PhD Weizmann Institute of Science (2007)
  • Jungeun Lee, Postdoctoral Fellow, PhD Seoul National University (2008)
  • Pedro Silva, Programmer Extraordinaire, BA Middlesex University (2005) MA San Francisco State University (2008)
  • Elisa Fiume, Postdoctoral Fellow, PhD UC Berkeley (2010)
  • Devin Coleman-Derr, Graduate Student, BA New College, Sarasota, Florida (1998)
  • Ping-Hung Hsieh
  • Jessica Rodrigues, BTech (Biotechnology) University of Auckland (2008)
  • Yvonne Kim, BS UC Berkeley (2008)
  • Jason Huff, PhD University of California, San Francisco, (2012)
  • Xiaoqi Feng, PhD University of Oxford (2010)