Professor Soto-Feliciano studies how chromatin regulates gene expression and how these molecular mechanisms are altered in cancer, with the goal of uncovering targets for the next generation of cancer treatments.
Chromatin—the physiological form of our genomes—is composed of DNA and histone proteins. Post-translational modifications of these building blocks play essential roles in maintaining the integrity of cells, tissues, and whole organisms. Large-scale sequencing efforts have uncovered that chromatin and epigenetic regulators are broadly altered in human diseases, such as cancer. How these factors work and how they contribute to cancer are important questions that remain unanswered.
The Soto-Feliciano lab aims to dissect how chromatin and epigenetic factors help decode the chemical language of our epigenomes, their context-specific effects, and how they regulate gene expression in normal physiology and disease. Current interest in the lab include: (1) determining how chromatin and epigenetic factors achieve locus-specific targeting and regulation; (2) understanding how these factors elicit critical context-specific functions in gene expression and cancer; (3) dissecting the biological impact of cancer-associated mutations on chromatin and epigenetic factors on gene expression; and 4) leveraging these insights for therapeutic benefit of cancer patients.
Yadira Soto-Feliciano is an Assistant Professor of Biology at MIT. She received a BS in Chemistry from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez in 2008. She received a PhD in Biology from MIT in 2016. She conducted her doctoral work in the laboratory of Michael T. Hemann at the Koch Institute at MIT, where she combined mouse models of leukemia with in vivo functional genomics approaches to study mechanisms of cell identity and lineage plasticity. These studies, along with mounting evidence pointing to epigenetic alterations as a central mechanism behind human diseases like cancer, led her to pursue formal postdoctoral training in chromatin biology and epigenetic mechanisms. Soto-Feliciano completed her postdoctoral training at the Rockefeller University in the laboratory of David Allis in 2021. During this period, she was supported by a Damon Runyon-Sohn Pediatric Cancer Fellowship and subsequently received an NIH/NIGMS K99/R00 award. Her postdoctoral work combined cancer biology and functional genomics with traditional chromatin biology and biochemistry, to understand the role of chromatin adaptor/scaffold proteins in cancer. She joined the MIT faculty in 2022 as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology and a member of the Koch Institute.