Dr Natalia Kunowska | Senior Research Assistant

This person is a member of Sanger Institute Alumni.

Kunowska, Natalia

My main research interests are the molecular mechanisms underlying cell identity and function and their perturbation in disease. My scientific background is in studying gene and protein networks involved in transcriptional regulation and epigenetics. I am currently applying my knowledge of these fields to human genetics, to contribute to elucidating how non-coding variants can increase the risk of autoimmune diseases.

Currently, I am working on a project aiming to elucidate the molecular mechanism by which non-coding genetics variants associated with elevated risk of developing autoimmune diseases contribute to pathogenesis of these diseases. I am characterising the gene activity profiles and functioning of a rare subset of T lymphocytes, the regulatory T cells, obtained from healthy donors in order to be able to correlate different phenotypes with the underlying genotypes.

Previously, during my postdoctoral work at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre at the Imperial College London, I focussed on studying gene regulation in B lymphocytes on a genome-wide scale. To understand how the histone code is “read” and translated into meaningful biological outcomes in the B cells, I characterised the proteins interacting with different combinations of modifications on histone proteins, which lead to identification of a novel protein complex that can bind to and “read” the double histone mark H3K9me3S10ph. Using ChIP-sequencing I studied how the identity of primary resting B lymphocytes is established through cooperation of transcription factors and chromatin modifiers. In my postdoc, I also collaborated on two studies investigating the role of Polycomb group of developmental proteins in stemness and differentiation.

I had my first experiences in the fields of gene regulation and epigenetics during my PhD work at Freiburg University, which focused on the chromatin-based mechanisms involved in regulating the gene activity during the development of cancer. I described a novel interactor of the major tumour suppressor protein p53, which represses histone acetylation at p53 target genes, thereby attenuating the p53-dependent anti-tumour response. I also participated in the discovery of new chromatin marks, H3T11ph and H3T6ph and in elucidating the cross-talk between histone phosphorylation and demethylation and its relevance in the prostate cancer.


  • Identification of protein complexes that bind to histone H3 combinatorial modifications using super-SILAC and weighted correlation network analysis.

    Kunowska N, Rotival M, Yu L, Choudhary J and Dillon N

    Nucleic acids research 2015;43;3;1418-32

  • An H3K9/S10 methyl-phospho switch modulates Polycomb and Pol II binding at repressed genes during differentiation.

    Sabbattini P, Sjoberg M, Nikic S, Frangini A, Holmqvist PH et al.

    Molecular biology of the cell 2014;25;6;904-15

  • MicroRNA regulation of Cbx7 mediates a switch of Polycomb orthologs during ESC differentiation.

    O'Loghlen A, Muñoz-Cabello AM, Gaspar-Maia A, Wu HA, Banito A et al.

    Cell stem cell 2012;10;1;33-46

  • Phosphorylation of histone H3T6 by PKCbeta(I) controls demethylation at histone H3K4.

    Metzger E, Imhof A, Patel D, Kahl P, Hoffmeyer K et al.

    Nature 2010;464;7289;792-6

  • Phosphorylation of histone H3 at threonine 11 establishes a novel chromatin mark for transcriptional regulation.

    Metzger E, Yin N, Wissmann M, Kunowska N, Fischer K et al.

    Nature cell biology 2008;10;1;53-60

  • NIR is a novel INHAT repressor that modulates the transcriptional activity of p53.

    Hublitz P, Kunowska N, Mayer UP, Müller JM, Heyne K et al.

    Genes & development 2005;19;23;2912-24

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Natalia's Timeline

Started at the Sanger Institute, in the Trynka Lab


Started a postdoc in the Dillon Lab at MRC Clinical Science Centre, Imperial College London


PhD in Biology, Freiburg University