Meet the Team

The Denu Lab @ Wisconsin Institute for Discovery

The "Histone Code"

The University of Wisconsin - Madison

The Denu Laboratory investigates the mechanism and biological function of reversible protein modifications involved in modulating signal transduction, chromatin dynamics and gene activation.

Created by Cassie Leech with BioRender

The Denu Lab investigates the intersections between metabolism and the epigenome, a complex series of modifications made on top of the genome that regulates gene expression. Cell metabolism includes the many biochemical reactions that create energy and build crucial molecules for the cell. Epigenetics is the study of modifications to the DNA and histone proteins, which package DNA in the nucleus. Merging these two concepts, we study how the daily workings of the cell affect the folding and accessibility of DNA, influencing how our cells and ultimately body responds to changes in diet or lifestyle. Our interdisciplinary approach spans basic biochemistry to big data, using methods ranging from in vitro enzyme assays to high-throughput mass spectrometry. The Denu lab is part of the Microbiome, Epigenetics, and Multi-omics hubs at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, and is involved in many collaborations both on and off campus.

Recent Lab News


  • November 2022 – Jessica won the 3-Minute Thesis Competition hosted by Alzheimer’s Research Centers from UW-Madison and WashU-St. Louis! Great work, Jess!
  • October 2022 – The Denu Lab organized and attended the UW-Madison Epigenetics Symposium.
  • September 2022 – Lily presents her research on H3K9 HMT kinetics at the IPiB Retreat!
  • August 2022 – John gives a talk and José presents a poster (and was awarded the Best Poster Award!) at the FASEB Reversible Protein Acetylation in Health and Disease Conference in Puerto Rico. ¡Buen trabajo!
  • August 2022 – Alexis successfully defends her dissertation on the dynamics of protein acetylation in the cell! Congratulations, Dr. Lawton!!
  • July 2022 – At the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) Symposium, Cassie and Lily gave lightning talks, and José, Jessica, and Lily presented posters about their research. Great job sharing your work with the WID community!
  • July 2022 – Amy successfully defends her dissertation on the role of SIRT3 in aging and also differentially acylated p300 activity! Congratulations, Dr. Qin!!
  • July 2022 – Jessica presents a poster on the effects of gut microbial metabolism on the host epigenome at the 8th annual Conference on Beneficial Microbes with co-mentor Federico Rey. Great work, Jessica!!
  • June 2022 – PhD student Lily presented her research on histone methyltransferases at the FASEB Biological Methylation conference in Sicily. Bravissima, Lily!
  • June 2022 – The Denu Lab celebrates the Epigenetics Hub at the WID with the Zhong and Sridharan Labs with an Epigenetics Picnic! Good luck to the Zhong Lab in St. Louis – you will be missed!
  • May 2022 – Former PhD student Jess Feldman gave a talk at the Biomolecular Chemistry Department Centennial Celebration! Great job and keep up the good work at Rentschler Biopharma SE, Jess!
  • May 2022 – Anusha Mehendale graduated with a B.S. in Genetics and Genomics, and Legal Studies! And was awarded the Irene B. Katele Outstanding Student Award!! Congrats, Anusha!
  • April 2022 – Undergraduate Sara Slager with John Denu is awarded the Hilldale Undergraduate/Faculty Research Fellowship! Awesome job!
  • April 2022 – Former lab technician Robert Miner joined the Binning Lab as his PhD thesis lab at Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute. Good luck, Robert!
  • April 2022 – CMB alum, Zhangli Su, is awarded a K99 through the National Cancer Institute to support her amazing post-doctoral work in the Dutta Lab at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
  • April 2022 – IPiB alum, Brittany Albaugh, is tenured and promoted to Associate Professor at Eastern Michigan University! Congrats, Brittany! Keep up the great work researching the molecular mechanisms of histone reader proteins UHRF1 and UHRF2 and their relation to cancer development!
  • March 2022 – Lily is awarded the Biomolecular Chemistry (BMC) travel grant for the FASEB Biological Methylation conference!
  • February 2022 – PhD student Lily is awarded the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) Heidi Dvinge and Patti Keely Trainee Honor Society Travel-Enrichment Award!
  • February 2022 – PhD student Jessica is awarded the Cellular and Molecular Biology (CMB) travel grant for the Beneficial Microbes conference – Congrats, Jess!
  • January 2022 – Alum Kristin Dittenhafer-Reed was awarded a NSF CAREER award to support her research lab at Hope College. Congrats! Check out all the great things Kristin’s lab works on surrounding mitochondrial health and transcription here!
  • January 2022 – Recent PhD student Sydney Thomas’ work on the connection between the gut microbiome and epigenetics is highlighted in the UW-Madison News!
  • January 2022 – Undergraduate researcher Anusha Mehendale joins the lab! Welcome, Anusha!