Bio

Bio


Molecular and Cellular Biologist (Ph.D.) with over 10 years of scientific research experience. Accomplished in developing, optimizing, validating and implementing new ideas and technology. Experience in managing and coordinating collaborative teams comprised of scientists and research technicians working to advance scientific knowledge. Technical experience in precision medicine diagnostics, cancer biology, neurobiology and epigenetics as well as in various molecular, biochemical and cell biology techniques.

Honors & Awards


  • AITF/Eyes High Postdoctoral Fellowship, AITF/University of Calgary (Oct 2013)
  • Alberta Cancer Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, Alberta Cancer Foundation (July 2015)
  • Sanofi BioGenius Mentorship Award - Alberta, Sanofi (April 2016)

Education & Certifications


  • Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Calgary, Chromatin organization and transcriptional regulation in cancer
  • PhD, Drexel University, Biological Sciences (Neurobiology and Epigenetics) (2013)
  • M.Sc., University of Mumbai, Life Sciences (Biological Macromolecules) (2005)

Publications

All Publications


  • Restoring Tip60 HAT/HDAC2 Balance in the Neurodegenerative Brain Relieves Epigenetic Transcriptional Repression and Reinstates Cognition JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Panikker, P., Xu, S., Zhang, H., Sarthi, J., Beaver, M., Sheth, A., Akhter, S., Elefant, F. 2018; 38 (19): 4569–83

    Abstract

    Cognitive decline is a debilitating hallmark during preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD), yet the causes remain unclear. Because histone acetylation homeostasis is critical for mediating epigenetic gene control throughout neuronal development, we postulated that its misregulation contributes to cognitive impairment preceding AD pathology. Here, we show that disruption of Tip60 histone acetlytransferase (HAT)/histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) homeostasis occurs early in the brain of an AD-associated amyloid precursor protein (APP) Drosophila model and triggers epigenetic repression of neuroplasticity genes well before Aβ plaques form in male and female larvae. Repressed genes display enhanced HDAC2 binding and reduced Tip60 and histone acetylation enrichment. Increasing Tip60 in the AD-associated APP brain restores Tip60 HAT/HDAC2 balance by decreasing HDAC2 levels, reverses neuroepigenetic alterations to activate synaptic plasticity genes, and reinstates brain morphology and cognition. Such Drosophila neuroplasticity gene epigenetic signatures are conserved in male and female mouse hippocampus and their expression and Tip60 function is compromised in hippocampus from AD patients. We suggest that Tip60 HAT/HDAC2-mediated epigenetic gene disruption is a critical initial step in AD that is reversed by restoring Tip60 in the brain.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT Mild cognitive impairment is a debilitating hallmark during preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD), yet its causes remain unclear. Although recent findings support elevated histone deacetylase 2 (HDAC2) as a cause for epigenetic repression of synaptic genes that contribute to cognitive deficits, whether alterations in histone acetlytransferase (HAT) levels that counterbalance HDAC2 repressor action occur and the identity of these HATs remain unknown. We demonstrate that disruption of Tip60 HAT/HDAC2 homeostasis occurs early in the AD Drosophila brain and triggers epigenetic repression of neuroplasticity genes before Aβ plaques form. Increasing Tip60 in the AD brain restores Tip60 HAT/HDAC2 balance, reverses neuroepigenetic alterations to activate synaptic genes, and reinstates brain morphology and cognition. Our data suggest that disruption of the Tip60 HAT/HDAC2 balance is a critical initial step in AD.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2840-17.2018

    View details for Web of Science ID 000431765500012

    View details for PubMedID 29654189

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5943982

  • Smc5/6 is a telomeric complex that regulates Sir4 binding and TPE Moradi-Fard, S., Sarthi, J., Tittel-Elmer, M., Lalonde, M., Cusanelli, E., Chartrand, P., Cobb, J. A. CANADIAN SCIENCE PUBLISHING, NRC RESEARCH PRESS. 2017: 179–80
  • Smc5/6 Is a Telomere-Associated Complex that Regulates Sir4 Binding and TPE PLOS GENETICS Moradi-Fard, S., Sarthi, J., Tittel-Elmer, M., Lalonde, M., Cusanelli, E., Chartrand, P., Cobb, J. A. 2016; 12 (8): e1006268

    Abstract

    SMC proteins constitute the core members of the Smc5/6, cohesin and condensin complexes. We demonstrate that Smc5/6 is present at telomeres throughout the cell cycle and its association with chromosome ends is dependent on Nse3, a subcomponent of the complex. Cells harboring a temperature sensitive mutant, nse3-1, are defective in Smc5/6 localization to telomeres and have slightly shorter telomeres. Nse3 interacts physically and genetically with two Rap1-binding factors, Rif2 and Sir4. Reduction in telomere-associated Smc5/6 leads to defects in telomere clustering, dispersion of the silencing factor, Sir4, and a loss in transcriptional repression for sub-telomeric genes and non-coding telomeric repeat-containing RNA (TERRA). SIR4 recovery at telomeres is reduced in cells lacking Smc5/6 functionality and vice versa. However, nse3-1/ sir4 Δ double mutants show additive defects for telomere shortening and TPE indicating the contribution of Smc5/6 to telomere homeostasis is only in partial overlap with SIR factor silencing. These findings support a role for Smc5/6 in telomere maintenance that is separate from its canonical role(s) in HR-mediated events during replication and telomere elongation.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pgen.1006268

    View details for Web of Science ID 000382394500054

    View details for PubMedID 27564449

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5001636

  • Epigenetic Control of Learning and Memory in Drosophila by Tip60 HAT Action GENETICS Xu, S., Wilf, R., Menon, T., Panikker, P., Sarthi, J., Elefant, F. 2014; 198 (4): 1571-+

    Abstract

    Disruption of epigenetic gene control mechanisms in the brain causes significant cognitive impairment that is a debilitating hallmark of most neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's disease (AD). Histone acetylation is one of the best characterized of these epigenetic mechanisms that is critical for regulating learning- and memory- associated gene expression profiles, yet the specific histone acetyltransferases (HATs) that mediate these effects have yet to be fully characterized. Here, we investigate an epigenetic role for the HAT Tip60 in learning and memory formation using the Drosophila CNS mushroom body (MB) as a well-characterized cognition model. We show that Tip60 is endogenously expressed in the Kenyon cells, the intrinsic neurons of the MB, and in the MB axonal lobes. Targeted loss of Tip60 HAT activity in the MB causes thinner and shorter axonal lobes while increasing Tip60 HAT levels cause no morphological defects. Functional consequences of both loss and gain of Tip60 HAT levels in the MB are evidenced by defects in immediate-recall memory. Our ChIP-Seq analysis reveals that Tip60 target genes are enriched for functions in cognitive processes, and, accordingly, key genes representing these pathways are misregulated in the Tip60 HAT mutant fly brain. Remarkably, we find that both learning and immediate-recall memory deficits that occur under AD-associated, amyloid precursor protein (APP)-induced neurodegenerative conditions can be effectively rescued by increasing Tip60 HAT levels specifically in the MB. Together, our findings uncover an epigenetic transcriptional regulatory role for Tip60 in cognitive function and highlight the potential of HAT activators as a therapeutic option for neurodegenerative disorders.

    View details for DOI 10.1534/genetics.114.171660

    View details for Web of Science ID 000346059300018

    View details for PubMedID 25326235

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4256772

  • Increasing Tip60 HAT Levels Rescues Axonal Transport Defects and Associated Behavioral Phenotypes in a Drosophila Alzheimer's Disease Model JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE Johnson, A. A., Sarthi, J., Pirooznia, S. K., Reube, W., Elefant, F. 2013; 33 (17): 7535–47

    Abstract

    Axonal transport defects and axonopathy are prominent in early preclinical stages of Alzheimer's disease (AD), often preceding known disease-related pathology by over a year. As epigenetic transcriptional regulatory mechanisms, such as histone acetylation, are critical for neurogenesis, it is postulated that their misregulation might be linked to early pathophysiological mechanisms that contribute to AD. The histone acetyltransferase (HAT) Tip60 epigenetically regulates genes enriched for neuronal functions and is implicated in AD via its formation of a transcriptional regulatory complex with the amyloid precursor protein (APP) intracellular domain. Disruption of APP function is associated with axonal transport defects, raising the possibility that an epigenetic role for Tip60 might also be involved. Here, we examine whether Tip60 HAT activity functions in axonal transport using Drosophila CNS motor neurons as a well-characterized transport model. We show that reduction of Tip60 HAT activity in the nervous system causes axonopathy and transport defects associated with epigenetic misregulation of certain axonal transport-linked Tip60 target genes. Functional consequences of these defects are evidenced by reduced locomotion activity of the mutant Tip60 larvae, and these phenotypes can be partially rescued with certain histone deacetylase inhibitors. Finally, we demonstrate that Tip60 function in axonal transport is mediated by APP and that, remarkably, excess Tip60 exerts a neuroprotective role in APP-induced axonal transport and functional locomotion defects. Our observations highlight a novel functional interactive role between Tip60 HAT activity and APP in axonal transport and provide insight into the importance of specific HAT modulators for cognitive disorder treatment.

    View details for DOI 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3739-12.2013

    View details for Web of Science ID 000318419300038

    View details for PubMedID 23616558

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3711104

  • Tip60 HAT Activity Mediates APP Induced Lethality and Apoptotic Cell Death in the CNS of a Drosophila Alzheimer's Disease Model PLOS ONE Pirooznia, S. K., Sarthi, J., Johnson, A. A., Toth, M. S., Chiu, K., Koduri, S., Elefant, F. 2012; 7 (7): e41776

    Abstract

    Histone acetylation of chromatin promotes dynamic transcriptional responses in neurons that influence neuroplasticity critical for cognitive ability. It has been demonstrated that Tip60 histone acetyltransferase (HAT) activity is involved in the transcriptional regulation of genes enriched for neuronal function as well as the control of synaptic plasticity. Accordingly, Tip60 has been implicated in the neurodegenerative disorder Alzheimer's disease (AD) via transcriptional regulatory complex formation with the AD linked amyloid precursor protein (APP) intracellular domain (AICD). As such, inappropriate complex formation may contribute to AD-linked neurodegeneration by misregulation of target genes involved in neurogenesis; however, a direct and causative epigenetic based role for Tip60 HAT activity in this process during neuronal development in vivo remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that nervous system specific loss of Tip60 HAT activity enhances APP mediated lethality and neuronal apoptotic cell death in the central nervous system (CNS) of a transgenic AD fly model while remarkably, overexpression of Tip60 diminishes these defects. Notably, all of these effects are dependent upon the C-terminus of APP that is required for transcriptional regulatory complex formation with Tip60. Importantly, we show that the expression of certain AD linked Tip60 gene targets critical for regulating apoptotic pathways are modified in the presence of APP. Our results are the first to demonstrate a functional interaction between Tip60 and APP in mediating nervous system development and apoptotic neuronal cell death in the CNS of an AD fly model in vivo, and support a novel neuroprotective role for Tip60 HAT activity in AD neurodegenerative pathology.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0041776

    View details for Web of Science ID 000309240600047

    View details for PubMedID 22848598

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3406101

  • dTip60 HAT Activity Controls Synaptic Bouton Expansion at the Drosophila Neuromuscular Junction PLOS ONE Sarthi, J., Elefant, F. 2011; 6 (10): e26202

    Abstract

    Histone acetylation of chromatin plays a key role in promoting the dynamic transcriptional responses in neurons that influence the neuroplasticity linked to cognitive ability, yet the specific histone acetyltransferases (HATs) that create such epigenetic marks remain to be elucidated.Here we use the Drosophila neuromuscular junction (NMJ) as a well-characterized synapse model to identify HATs that control synaptic remodeling and structure. We show that the HAT dTip60 is concentrated both pre and post-synaptically within the NMJ. Presynaptic targeted reduction of dTip60 HAT activity causes a significant increase in synaptic bouton number that specifically affects type Is boutons. The excess boutons show a suppression of the active zone synaptic function marker bruchpilot, suggesting defects in neurotransmission function. Analysis of microtubule organization within these excess boutons using immunohistochemical staining to the microtubule associated protein futsch reveals a significant increase in the rearrangement of microtubule loop architecture that is required for bouton division. Moreover, α-tubulin acetylation levels of microtubules specifically extending into the terminal synaptic boutons are reduced in response to dTip60 HAT reduction.Our results are the first to demonstrate a causative role for the HAT dTip60 in the control of synaptic plasticity that is achieved, at least in part, via regulation of the synaptic microtubule cytoskeleton. These findings have implications for dTip60 HAT dependant epigenetic mechanisms underlying cognitive function.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0026202

    View details for Web of Science ID 000296521400012

    View details for PubMedID 22046262

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3203119

  • Microarray Analysis Uncovers a Role for Tip60 in Nervous System Function and General Metabolism PLOS ONE Lorbeck, M., Pirooznia, K., Sarthi, J., Zhu, X., Elefant, F. 2011; 6 (4): e18412

    Abstract

    Tip60 is a key histone acetyltransferase (HAT) enzyme that plays a central role in diverse biological processes critical for general cell function; however, the chromatin-mediated cell-type specific developmental pathways that are dependent exclusively upon the HAT activity of Tip60 remain to be explored.Here, we investigate the role of Tip60 HAT activity in transcriptional control during multicellular development in vivo by examining genome-wide changes in gene expression in a Drosophila model system specifically depleted for endogenous dTip60 HAT function.We show that amino acid residue E431 in the catalytic HAT domain of dTip60 is critical for the acetylation of endogenous histone H4 in our fly model in vivo, and demonstrate that dTip60 HAT activity is essential for multicellular development. Moreover, our results uncover a novel role for Tip60 HAT activity in controlling neuronal specific gene expression profiles essential for nervous system function as well as a central regulatory role for Tip60 HAT function in general metabolism.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0018412

    View details for Web of Science ID 000289354100011

    View details for PubMedID 21494552

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3073973

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