Associate Professor Marnie Blewitt

Associate Professor Marnie Blewitt



Marnie Blewitt


Associate Professor

BSc (Hons) PhD Sydney

Joint Division Head

We study how genes are turned on and off, a process called epigenetic modification that is critical for development. The DNA of a fertilised egg contains all the information to form an adult. Proteins called epigenetic modifiers turn different genes on and off at different stages of development. Disease can occur if this process fails.

Despite their importance, it is estimated that 90 per cent of human epigenetic modifiers remain unknown. My lab is using new technologies to discover hundreds of potential epigenetic modifiers. This is revealing the role of epigenetics in development and disease. Our ultimate aim is to develop treatments for disease that manipulate epigenetic modifiers.

Research interest

Our primary interest is in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind epigenetic control of gene expression. We use several model systems to study the interaction between known and novel epigenetic modifiers: X inactivation, embryonic, haematopoietic and neural stem cell activity.

In each case, we are interested in how epigenetic modifiers are able to elicit transcriptional silencing or activation, and how this relates to functional outcomes for the cell. We use a combination of genetic and genomic techniques to address these questions, including:

  • Mutant alleles

  • In vivo and in vitro shRNA mediated knockdown for screens or individual gene characterisation

  • Chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by NextGen sequencing

  • Bisulfite conversion followed by NextGen sequencing

  • RNA expression followed by NextGen sequencing

By studying the molecular mechanisms that govern epigenetic control in normal development, in the long run we hope to understand how it goes awry in disease. This may reveal how we can manipulate epigenetic state for therapeutic gain.

Animated cells

Coursera course: This course covers the principles of epigenetic control of gene expression, how epigenetic control contributes to cellular differentiation and development, and how it goes wrong in disease.


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