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Targeting COMPASS to Cure Childhood Leukemia (Ali Shilatifard)

Episode 55

August 19, 2021

In this episode of the Epigenetics Podcast, we caught up with Ali Shilatifard from Northwestern University to talk about his work on targeting COMPASS to cure childhood leukemia.

The Shilatifard Lab studies childhood leukemia and how it can potentially be treated using epigenetic targets. The team focuses on is SET1/COMPASS, a histone H3 lysine4 methylase. Ali Shilatifard was able to purify and identify its activity, with results published in 2001 in PNAS. This protein complex is conserved from yeast to drosophila to humans.

Surprisingly, the Shilatifard Team could show that the catalytic activity of COMPASS is not necessary for viability of drosophila. Furthermore, they found that catalytic activity was not the decisive feature of the complex, but rather its role in the context of chromatin structure, in particular a protein domain that only spans 80 amino acids within the 4000 amino acid protein.