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VIDEO: Serena Sanulli on Chromatin and its Phases

On January 27, Dewpoint and welcomed Stanford’s newly appointed Chan Zuckerberg Biohub investigator Serena Sanulli for a Kitchen Table Talk. Serena has done all her training in the chromatin field. First she studied chromatin changes in development with Raphaël Margueron in her PhD work at the Université Pierre and Marie Curie. She then went on to UCSF to apply biophysical methods to chromatin structure and organization with Geeta Narlikar and John Gross. 

Obviously, Serena loves everything chromatin—the dynamics, structure, and function of nucleosomes to chromosomes. Her talk covers her wide-ranging interests including her work on how HP1 drives chromatin compaction to heterochromatin, studied with a wide range of biophysical and biochemical methods.

Serena must also love the condensates community just as much as she loves chromatin because she delivered this incredibly stimulating talk at 7 am Pacific time! The attendees were fully caffeinated and the discussion brimmed well over our allotted time. And Serena was kind enough to provide written answers to the questions she didn’t have time to answer. You can find her thoughts on those questions and a recording of the full talk and Q&A session below. Enjoy! 

Serena Sanulli on Chromatin and its Phases

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Mark Murcko (00:00:00):
It’s great to see everybody. Good to have you all here. Our speaker today is Serena Sanulli. She is a Chan Zuckerberg Biohub Investigator at Stanford. And it’s been wonderful to watch her career evolve. Serena loves everything about chromatin, dynamics, structure, function. She studies nucleosomes and chromosomes with a wide range of biophysical, biochemical methods, and naturally, no surprise to anybody on this Zoom meeting, that research interest has led her to condensates–quelle surprise!

Mark Murcko (00:00:34):
Today she’ll be talking with us about her work on HP1 and how that drives chromatin compaction into heterochromatin. And Serena, as I mentioned, has worked in chromatin her entire career. She got her PhD in 2013 from the Curie in Paris, studying chromatin changes and development with Raphaël Margueron and then she moved to UCSF and she worked with the Geeta Narlikar and John Gross. And that was to apply biophysical methods to study chromatin structure and organization. And just a few months ago, she took her faculty position at Stanford and she’s just getting her lab up and running, of course, in difficult times, but getting off to a great start.

Mark Murcko (00:01:16):
We’re also very grateful to her for her willingness to give a lecture to all of us so early in the morning, out there in California. So it’s clear that she loves the condensate community just as much as she loves chromatin. Serena the floor is yours.

Serena Sanulli (00:01:30):
Thanks, Mark. Thank you so much for the kind introduction and it’s really a pleasure to be here virtually with you today. It’s also being part of this condensate community and line up with this Kitchen Talk series that you’ve been putting together. It’s great.

Serena Sanulli (00:01:51):
Today I’m going to tell you about chromatin and my long-standing interest. And also going to tell you the journey within the phase separation field as a chromatin biologist. I have to confess that I didn’t really appreciate the implication of phase separation from the beginning as a chromatin person. But what I’m trying to do today is really going to tell you how the perspective of phase separation has really reshaped my view of chromatin organization. I’m going to try to really share with you this vision…


Question from Ziad Ibrahim: Have you used methylates nucleosomes in your HDX experiments? Does HP1 bind DNA as well or only methylated Histones?
Serena’s Response: The experiments I showed were all performed with H3K9 methylated nucleosomes. HP1 also binds non-methylated nucleosomes, but with weaker affinity. In absence of H3K9me, HP1 is not sensitive to disulfide locked nucleosomes, suggesting conformational change in the nucleosome core is couple to H3K9me recognition…

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