Presented by C. David Allis
B.S., M.S., University of Bologna
Discovery and Characterization of Methylation of Arginine 42 on Histone H3: A Novel Histone Modification with Positive Transcriptional Effects
Fabio Casadio came to my lab from Italy, which is relevant, but he came carrying an interest in what turned out to be the centerpiece of his work in my lab, a topic called arginine methylation. I say that Italy is relevant because I’d like to welcome his parents, who are here from Italy, and certainly proud of him, and we are as well.
Back to arginine methylation, I’ll keep it simple. I’ll just say that in the current views of our day this is the little brother of a big brother, lysine methylation, which seems to be guiding our genome and in fact watching out for the arginine methylation below it. That makes it very rare, and it makes it very challenging, but Fabio in fact cracked that open and taught us quite a bit about this little brother. He taught us who puts this mark on, who takes this mark off, and most importantly, how it functions in the cell.
Fabio mapped the site, in terms of the structure that we study in the lab, which is so critically positioned to be a genetic switch that might open or close our genetic material. Fabio put forward the hypothesis that may indeed be what this modification was all about, and went on to test this in a defined chromatin system that took advantage of work with Bob Roeder and Tom Muir.
Relevant on a personal level, Fabio wasn’t just smart and quick upstairs; he was actually quick downstairs, meaning his feet. Fabio is a very big sports man, and in fact, of the many sports that he did while he was here, he regularly entered all the premiere marathons. But maybe more surprising to me was that he came in as an elite marathon top-tier runner in all of those races. I know a lot of Rockefeller students dominate, but Fabio is even a notch above.
So what’s he going to do with all this stamina and discipline? He’s decided to take another course: he’s going to take his smarts and quick wits to McKinsey & Company, and we know that he’s got all of the background ingredients for this because he can be so disciplined and has the stamina and the strength. But in fact I learned recently, when Fabio graduated, that he has been turned on to one American delicacy. This is a calorie packed food; it’s cheap and that makes it graduate student friendly. And it turns out to be nothing other than peanut butter. Fabio loves peanut butter. I actually have an added present for Fabio’s parents. I’ve already gotten Fabio a big jar of peanut butter but I’d like him to take this Reese’s back to his parents because they’ve traveled so far; this may help them on the return trip.