Erica Korb, PhD

faculty photo
Assistant Professor of Genetics
Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, University of Pennsylvania
Intellectual and Developmental Disability Research Center, University of Pennsylvania
Autism Spectrum Program of Excellence , University of Pennsylvania
Department: Genetics
Graduate Group Affiliations

Contact information
9-124 Smilow Center for Translational Research
Philadelphia, PA 19104
BS (Molecular Biology (Mentor David Wells))
Yale University, 2005.
PhD (Neuroscience (Mentor Steve Finkbeiner))
University of California, San Francisco, 2012.
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Description of Research Expertise

Research Interests:

The Korb lab works at the intersection of neuroscience and epigenetics with a focus on
the role of chromatin in learning and memory and in neurodevelopmental disorders.


Neuroscience, Epigenetics, Chromatin, Histones, Synaptic Plasticity, Learning, Memory, Neurodevelopmental disorders, Autism

Research Details:

Our lab works at the intersection of neuroscience and epigenetics. Epigenetics, in its broadest sense, explores how our environment can change the expression of our genes. Epigenetic regulation of transcription is extremely important in neuronal function and contributes to the creation of new memories, our ability to adapt to our environment, and to numerous neurological disorders. We try to understand how the world around us can influence genes expression in our neurons to allow us to learn, adapt, and become the people we are today.

In the lab we focus on chromatin and its role in neuronal function. Chromatin is the complex of DNA and proteins called histones, which package our DNA into complex structures and control access to our genes. To study histones and how they regulate neuronal function, we combine methods such as microscopy, bioinformatics, biochemistry, behavioral testing, and more. We have multiple areas of research in the lab, all focused on the study of chromatin and how it regulates neuronal function and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Rotation projects:

The role of histone modifications in regulating how neurons respond to the environment:
Histone proteins can be modified by a huge range of posttranslational modifications including phosphorylation, methylation, ubiquitination, and more. These modifications allow histones to respond to different environmental cues and regulate gene expression accordingly. Particularly exciting are several novel modifications only recently discovered on histone proteins. For reasons we don’t yet understand, some of these histone modifications are particularly highly expressed in the brain. We are exploring their regulation and function in neurons and examining how they allow the brain to adapt to a changing environment and new experiences.

The role of different histone variants in learning and memory.
Histone proteins can come in different ‘flavors’. Often these variant proteins only differ by a few amino acids, yet they can play very different roles in regulating transcription. To study the role of these histone variants in the brain, we are applying the tools of chromatin biology such as biochemistry techniques and genome-wide sequencing to the field of neuroscience. We hope to understand how these subtle changes can drastically alter the ability of a neuron to activate the right genes at the right times and allow the brain to perform complex tasks such as memory storage and learning new skills.

The role of chromatin in neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism:
Recent studies have identified many new genes linked to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Surprisingly, a large number of these genes encode proteins that are involved in epigenetic regulation. However, in most cases we don’t know how these proteins function in the brain or how their loss can lead to neurodevelopmental disorders. We use a combination of cell culture, genome-wide sequencing, bioinformatics, and behavioral testing of animal models to better understand how these disorders occur and, hopefully, how they can be treated.

Research techniques:

We combine methods such as neuronal cell culture, genome-wide sequencing, microscopy, bioinformatics, biochemistry, mouse models of disease, behavioral testing, and more.
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Last updated: 07/10/2024
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