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Kavitha Sarma, Ph.D.

Kavitha Sarma, Ph.D.


The Sarma Laboratory



Assistant Professor, Gene Expression & Regulation Program

About the Scientist

Sarma studies the mechanisms of RNA-mediated epigenetic gene regulation to understand how the loss of chromatin modifier-RNA interactions impacts cellular function.

Sarma completed her graduate studies with a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Rutgers University. She conducted her postdoctoral training at the Massachusetts General Hospital-Harvard Medical School, and joined The Wistar Institute in 2016 as an Assistant Professor.

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The Sarma Laboratory

The Sarma laboratory is interested in the mechanisms of epigenetic gene regulation, or how the dynamic modifications of the architecture of chromatin, the complex of DNA and proteins within the nucleus of our cells, impacts gene expression and cellular function. The lab investigates consequences of epigenetic alterations in neuronal cancers and neurodegenerative diseases using a combination of biochemistry, cell and molecular biology with genome wide approaches to gain mechanistic insight into how chromatin architecture is modified in disease. The goal is to identify new pathways and interactions that can be targeted to correct these epigenetic perturbations.


Postdoctoral Fellow

Wenqing Ren, Ph.D.
Qingqing Yan, Ph.D

Research Assisant

Nicole Medeiros, M.S.

Undergraduate Researcher

Joyce Bian

Available Positions

Graduate students are encouraged to contact Dr. Sarma for rotation projects. Postdoctoral candidates should submit a CV and cover letter to


Current research interests in the lab include:

  • Role of RNA interactions in modulation of gene expression and genome organization
  • Regulation of the epigenetic landscape by the formation and resolution of RNA-containing chromatin structures
  • Differential histone variant deposition in normal and disease states and their impact on gene expression programs and genome stability
Selected Publications

Yan, Q., Shields, E., Sarma, K., et al. "Mapping native R-loops genome-wide using a targeted nuclease approach." bioRxiv. 2018 Oct 30; doi: 10.1101/457226

Sarma, K., Cifuentes-Rojas, C., Lee, J.T, et al. "ATRX directs binding of PRC2 to Xist RNA and Polycomb targets." Cell. 2014 Nov 6;159(4):869-83. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.10.019.

Cifuentes-Rojas, C., Hernandez, A.J., Sarma, K., Lee, J.T. "Regulatory interactions between RNA and polycomb repressive complex 2." Mol Cell. 2014 Jul 17;55(2):171-85. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2014.05.009. Epub 2014 May 29.

Jeon, Y., Sarma, K., Lee, J.T. "New and Xisting regulatory mechanisms of X chromosome inactivation." Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2012 Apr;22(2):62-71. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2012.02.007. Epub 2012 Mar 16.

Sarma, K., Levasseur, P., Lee, J.T., et al. "Locked nucleic acids (LNAs) reveal sequence requirements and kinetics of Xist RNA localization to the X chromosome." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 21;107(51):22196-201. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1009785107. Epub 2010 Dec 6.

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