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Alessandro Gardini, Ph.D.

Alessandro Gardini, Ph.D.


The Gardini Laboratory



Assistant Professor, Gene Expression & Regulation Program, The Wistar Institute Cancer Center

About the Scientist

Gardini studies the epigenetic control of transcription during cell differentiation and oncogenesis.

Born and raised in Italy, Gardini obtained a B.S./M.S. in Medical Biotechnology at the University of Bologna and attended the graduate school of Molecular Medicine at the University of Milan. He trained as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Ramin Shiekhattar at the Center of Genomic Regulation in Barcelona, The Wistar Institute and the University of Miami Medical School. He joined Wistar as an Assistant Professor in 2015. Gardini is a scholar of the Leukemia Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society.

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The Gardini Laboratory

In higher eukaryotes, the process of cell fate determination is at the very core of biological complexity. Genetically identical precursor cells (i.e. stem cells) can execute different transcriptional programs resulting in a wide range of differentiated cell types that are morphologically and functionally distinct. The Gardini lab works to characterize the transcriptional mechanisms that control fate choice and differentiation of human hematopoietic stem cells (figure 1).

Gardini_Figure 1

In particular, we investigate how genomic regulatory sequences, termed enhancers, work to determine cell identity and specify blood lineages, such as monocytes/macrophages and granulocytes, from hematopoietic stem cells.

Furthermore, we strive to understand how large nuclear multi-protein complexes, such as Integrator and SWI/SNF, fine-tune transcription by coordinating activation of enhancers and their target promoters.


Postdoctoral Fellows

Sandra Deliard, Ph.D.
Avery Zucco, Ph.D.
Yingjie Zhang, Ph.D.

Graduate Student

Connor Hill (UPenn-CAMB)
Sarah Offley (UPenn-CAMB)
Sarah Welsh (UPenn-BMB)

Master Student

Martina Gatto

Lab Assistant

Steven Ly


Marco Trizzino, Ph.D. (2016-2019) Assistant Professor, Thomas Jefferson University 

Elisa Barbieri, Ph.D. (2015-2019) Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Available Positions

Motivated candidates are encouraged to inquire about the positions below. Contact

Postdoctoral Fellow
Graduate Students (BGS-UPenn)


Enhancer Regulation in Hematopoiesis and Leukemia

Enhancers are distal regulatory elements scattered throughout the entire genome. They play a fundamental role in orchestrating gene regulation during critical developmental processes such as cell differentiation. Furthermore, enhancers are active spots for transcription of long noncoding RNAs termed eRNAs (Gardini and Shiekhattar, 2015). These short-lived, non-polyadenylated transcripts are required to establish a link between the promoter and the distant regulatory enhancer (chromosomal looping) and contribute to the expression of the target protein-coding gene. The underlying mechanisms are poorly understood and the potential contribution of enhancers and eRNAs to cancer just started to emerge. The lab is keen to understand how a network of enhancers drive the physiological process of hematopoiesis, and how this network is disrupted during leukemogenesis. We recently uncovered a novel enhancer regulatory axis in monocytic and macrophagic differentiation (Barbieri et al., 2018).

Gardini_Figure 2

Dissecting the Function of the Integrator Protein Complex

Integrator is a large, evolutionarily conserved, multiprotein complex that regulates several transcriptional processes. For instance, Integrator controls pause-release of RNA Polymerase II at several promoters (Gardini et. al., 2014). In addition, Integrator regulates enhancer function through the processing of noncoding eRNAs (Lai, Gardini et al., 2015). We employ a variety of genome-wide techniques, including ChIP-seq, RNA-seq, ATAC-seq and Global Run-On Sequencing (GRO-seq), along with large-scale affinity purification, to study the function of the Integrator complex in cell differentiation.

Role of ARID1A in Transcriptional Regulation

Chromatin remodelers regulate DNA accessibility by positioning nucleosomes at active promoters and enhancers. We investigate the function of SWI/SNF, the most mutated chromatin remodeler across all human cancers. Subunits of SWI/SNF, such as ARID1A, are found mutated in sporadic ovarian tumors and their specific contribution to SWI/SNF activity is poorly understood. We recently elucidated a novel function of ARID1A in pausing of RNA Polymerase II (Trizzino et al., 2018).

Selected Publications

Barbieri, E., Trizzino, M., Welsh, S.A., Owens, T.A., Calabretta, B., Carroll, M., Sarma, K., Gardini, A. "Targeted enhancer activation by a subunit of the Integrator complex." Mol Cell. 2018. 

Trizzino, M., Barbieri, E., Petracovici, A., Wu, S., Welsh, S.A., Owens, T.A., Licciulli, S., Zhang, R., Gardini, A. "The tumor suppressor ARID1A controls global transcription via pausing of RNA Polymerase II." Cell Reports. 2018.

Lai, F., Gardini, A., Zhang, A., Shiekhattar, R. "Integrator mediates the biogenesis of enhancer RNAs." Nature. 2015 Sep 17;525(7569):399-403. doi: 10.1038/nature14906. Epub 2015 Aug 26.

Gardini, A., Shiekhattar, R. "The many faces of long noncoding RNAs." FEBS J. 2015 May;282(9):1647-57. doi: 10.1111/febs.13101. Epub 2014 Nov 7.

Gardini, A., Baillat, D., Cesaroni, M., Hu, D., Marinis, J.M., Wagner, E.J., Lazar, M.A., Shilatifard, A., Shiekhattar, R. "Integrator regulates transcriptional initiation and pause release following activation." Mol Cell. 2014 Oct 2;56(1):128-139. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2014.08.004. Epub 2014 Sep 4.

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