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Zaph Lab research

CollaborationsStudent research projects | Publications

About Professor Colby Zaph

Colby Zaph is Professor and Head of the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunity and Inflammation in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and is a member of the Infection and Immunity Program of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

Professor Zaph obtained a B.Sc. (Honours) in Biochemistry from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada in 1995. He obtained his Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, USA working with Phillip Scott on memory T cell responses that develop following infection with the protozoan parasite Leishmania major. He carried out his postdoctoral studies at the University of Pennsylvania with David Artis where he focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate immunity and inflammation at mucosal sites, which continues to be the overall focus of his laboratory.

Professor Zaph has made several important contributions such as defining the role of parasite persistence in memory T cell development (Zaph et al. (2004) Nat. Med. 10:1104) and identifying a critical role for intestinal epithelial cells in licensing innate and adaptive immune responses during intestinal infection (Zaph et al. (2007) Nature 446:552). More recently, his research has focused on the role of lysine methylation in epigenetic regulation of gene expression (Lehnertz et al. (2010) J. Exp. Med. 207:915; Antignano et al. (2014) J. Clin. Invest. 124:1945), as well as a novel signalling mechanism that controls subcellular localization of proteins (Oudhoff et al. (2013) Dev. Cell 26:188).

Our research

Current projects

  1. Epigenetic regulation of mucosal immunity and inflammation
  2. Retinoic acid, Hic1 and intestinal immune homeostasis
  3. Methylation is the new phosphorylation: Dynamic regulation of signal transduction by methylation

Visit Professor Zaph's Monash research profile to see a full listing of current projects.

Research activities

1. Epigenetic regulation of immunity and inflammation at mucosal sites

We have been at the forefront of defining the epigenetic mechanisms that control T cell differentiation and function (Lehnertz (2010) J. Exp. Med.; Antignano, (2014) J. Clin. Invest.), focusing on lysine methyltransferases (KMTs), enzymes that methylate histones to repress or activate gene expression. This project involves the characterization of the epigenomic regulators of T cell physiology and will focus on linking genome-wide histone modifications (via ChIP-Seq) to functional assays in vivo.

2. Methylation-dependent regulation of Hippo/YAP and Wnt/beta-Catenin signalling in the intestine

We have recently identified a novel role for the methyltransferase SETD7 in regulation of the Hippo/YAP signalling pathway (Oudhoff (2013) Dev. Cell; Barsyte-Lovejoy (2014) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA). We have now extended these findings to show that SETD7/YAP interactions control activation of the Wnt/b-Catenin pathway, and regulate intestinal regeneration and tumourigenesis. This project will define how SETD7-dependent methylation controls Wnt-dependent processes in the intestine.

3. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of retinoic acid-mediated regulation of intestinal immune responses

Micronutrients such as Vitamin A (and its derivative retinoic acid (RA)) play a critical role in intestinal immune homeostasis. However, the molecular mechanisms that link RA signaling to immune cell function in the gut are unclear. We have recently identified a role for the transcriptional repressor Hic1 as an RA-responsive gene that controls intestinal immune cell homeostasis and function. This project will use novel mouse models to define the role of Hic1 in immune cells during the steady state and following infection and inflammation.

Scanning electron micrograph of large intestine


We collaborate with many scientists and research organisations around the world. Click on the map to see the details for each of these collaborators (dive into specific publications and outputs by clicking on the dots).

Student research projects

The Zaph Lab offers a variety of Honours, Masters and PhD projects for students interested in joining our group. There are also a number of short term research opportunities available.

Please visit Supervisor Connect to explore the projects currently available in our Lab.