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Molecular and Human Genetics

Houston, Texas

Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
Department of Molecular and Human Genetics
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Robert A. Waterland, Ph.D.

Robert A. Waterland, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics

Other Positions

Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics; USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center


B.Sc., Virginia Tech, 1987
Ph.D., Cornell University, 2000
Postdoc, Duke University, 2004

Research Interests

Research in the Waterland laboratory aims to understand how nutrition and other environmental influences during prenatal and early postnatal development affect individual susceptibility to various diseases later in life. We are focused on nutritional influences on developmental epigenetics as a likely mediating mechanism.

Epigenetic mechanisms are established during development to stably regulate tissue-specific patterns of gene expression. DNA methylation is of particular interest because mammalian one-carbon metabolism, which supplies the methyl groups for DNA methylation, is intimately dependent on dietary methyl donors and cofactors. We use various mouse models to investigate early nutritional influences on the developmental establishment of DNA methylation and associated phenotypes. We are also conducting human studies to identify persistent epigenetic changes associated with early nutritional exposures. We use genome-wide DNA methylation profiling, bioinformatic analysis, bisulfite pyrosequencing, and various gene expression assays.

Additionally, we are also investigating the role of epigenetic dysregulation in obesity. In particular, we are using mouse models to study whether maternal obesity and nutrition before and during pregnancy affect developmental epigenetics in the hypothalamus and, consequently, body weight regulation in her offspring.

Selected Publications

  1. Baker MS, Li G, Kohorst JJ, Waterland RA (2013). Fetal growth restriction promotes physical inactivity and obesity in female mice. Int. J. Obes. (Lond), in press. PubMed PMID: 23924758
  2. Li G, Kohorst JJ, Zhang W, Laritsky E, Kunde-Ramamoorthy G, Baker MS, Fiorotto ML, Waterland RA (2013). Early postnatal nutrition determines adult physical activity and energy expenditure in female mice. Diabetes 62(8): 2773-83. PubMed PMID: 23545705
  3. Yu DH, Ware C, Waterland RA, Zhang J, Chen MH, Gadkari M, Kunde-Ramamoorthy G, Nosavanh LM, Shen L (2013). Developmentally programmed 3' CpG island methylation confers tissue- and cell-type-specific transcriptional activation. Mol. Cell Biol. 33(9): 1845-58. PubMed PMID: 23459939
  4. Waterland RA, Kellermayer R, Laritsky E, Rayco-Solon P, Harris RA, Travisano M, Zhang W, Torskaya MS, Zhang J, Shen L, Manary MJ, Prentice AM (2010). Season of conception in rural gambia affects DNA methylation at putative human metastable epialleles. PLoS Genet. 6(12): e1001252. PubMed PMID: 21203497
  5. Harris RA, Wang T, Coarfa C, Nagarajan RP, Hong C, Downey SL, Johnson BE, Fouse SD, Delaney A, Zhao Y, Olshen A, Ballinger T, Zhou X, Forsberg KJ, Gu J, Echipare L, O'Geen H, Lister R, Pelizzola M, Xi Y, Epstein CB, Bernstein BE, Hawkins RD, Ren B, Chung WY, Gu H, Bock C, Gnirke A, Zhang MQ, Haussler D, Ecker JR, Li W, Farnham PJ, Waterland RA, Meissner A, Marra MA, Hirst M, Milosavljevic A, Costello JF (2010). Comparison of sequencing-based methods to profile DNA methylation and identification of monoallelic epigenetic modifications. Nat. Biotechnol. 28(10): 1097-105. PubMed PMID: 20852635
  6. Waterland RA, Travisano M, Tahiliani KG, Rached MT, Mirza S (2008). Methyl donor supplementation prevents transgenerational amplification of obesity. Intl. J. Obes. 32(9): 1373-9. PubMed PMID: 18626486
  7. Shen L, Kondo Y, Guo Y, Zhang J, Zhang L, Ahmed S, Shu J, Chen X, Waterland RA, Issa JPJ (2007). Genome-wide profiling of DNA methylation reveals a class of normally methylated CpG island promoters. PLoS Genet. 3(10): 2023-36. PubMed PMID: 17967063
  8. Waterland RA, Travisano, M, Tahiliani, KG (2007). Diet-induced hypermethylation at agouti viable yellow is not inherited transgenerationally through the female. FASEB J. 21(12): 3380. PubMed PMID: 17551099
  9. Waterland RA, Dolinoy DC, Lin JR, Smith CA, Shi X, Tahiliani KG (2006). Maternal methyl supplements increase offspring DNA methylation at axin fused. Genesis 44(9): 401-406. PubMed PMID: 16868943
  10. Waterland RA, Jirtle RL (2003). Transposable elements: targets for early nutritional effects on epigenetic gene regulation. Mol. Cell. Biol. 23(15): 5293-5300. PubMed PMID: 12861015

Contact Information

Robert A. Waterland, Ph.D.
Departments of Pediatrics and Molecular and Human Genetics
Baylor College of Medicine
USDA Children's Nutrition Research Center
1100 Bates St., Ste. 5080
Houston, TX, 77030, U.S.A.

Phone: 713-798-0304
Fax: 713-798-7101

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