Kavitha Sarma, Ph.D.

Kavitha Sarma, Ph.D.

  • Assistant Professor, Gene Expression and Regulation Program
  • ksarma@wistar.org

The Sarma lab is interested in the mechanisms of RNA-mediated epigenetic gene regulation and understanding how the loss of chromatin modifier-RNA interactions impacts cellular function.

Non-coding RNAs are epigenetic factors that impact chromatin structure, organization and composition that have direct consequence to gene regulation.  They function as molecular tethers that recruit regulatory complexes to defined genomic destinations. NcRNA function is compromised in an array of developmental disorders and diseases.

This lab utilizes biochemical, cell biological and genome-wide approaches in stem and cancer cell models to gain mechanistic insights into ncRNA function.  This emerging area of scientific inquiry is key to development of novel therapeutic targets and treatment strategies in many diseases with misregulated ncRNAs, including several cancers.

Kavitha completed her graduate studies with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rutgers University. After completing her postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School, she joined the Wistar Institute in 2016 as an Assistant Professor.


We are always on the lookout for highly motivated students and postdoctoral fellows with broad research interests in epigenetics, non-coding RNA and chromatin biology. 

Postdoctoral applicants and students who have been admitted to a graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania are encouraged to inquire by sending an email to: ksarma@wistar.org.

Selected Publications

1. Sarma K, Cifuentes-Rojas C, Ergun A, del Rosario A, Jeon Y, White F, Sadreyev R, and Lee JT. ATRX regulates binding of PRC2 to Xist RNA and Polycomb targets. Cell. 2014;159, Nov 6.

2. Cifuentes-Rojas C, Hernandez AJ, Sarma K, and Lee JT. Regulatory Interactions between RNA and Polycomb Repressive Complex 2. Molecular cell. 2014;55:171-185.

3. Simon MD, Pinter SF, Fang R, Sarma K, Rutenberg-Schoenberg M, Bowman, SK, Kesner BA, Maier VK, Kingston RE, and Lee JT. High-resolution Xist binding maps reveal two-step spreading during X-chromosome inactivation. Nature. 2013;504:465-469.

5. Jeon Y*, Sarma K*, and Lee, JT. New and Xisting regulatory mechanisms of X chromosome inactivation. Current opinion in genetics & development. 2012;22:62-71.

*-  equal contribution

6. Sarma K, Levasseur P, Aristarkhov A, and Lee JT. Locked nucleic acids (LNAs) reveal sequence requirements and kinetics of Xist RNA localization to the X chromosome. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2010;107:22196-22201.

7. Margueron R, Li G, Sarma K, Blais A, Zavadil J, Woodcock CL, Dynlacht BD, and Reinberg D. Ezh1 and Ezh2 maintain repressive chromatin through different mechanisms. Molecular cell. 2008;32:503-518.

8. Sarma K, Margueron R, Ivanov A, Pirrotta V, and Reinberg D. Ezh2 requires PHF1 to efficiently catalyze H3 lysine 27 trimethylation in vivo. Molecular and cellular biology. 2008;28: 2718-2731.

9. Sarma K, and Reinberg D. Histone variants meet their match. Nature reviews Molecular cell biology.  2005;6:139-149.