Ekwall Group

Karl Ekwall, Professor, Ph D
Participating group member:
Post doc Agata Smialowska
Dept. of Biosciences and Nutrition, Center for Biosciences, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden email: Karl.Ekwall@ki.se

Profile of the group:

Our main expertise is in large-scale functional epigenomic analyses, using primarily fission yeast (S. pombe) as a model organism. During my postdoc I expanded on studies of the position effect variegation and determined that the Swi6 protein (HP1 homologue) plays a key role in centromeric silencing. I subsequently demonstrated that the control of epigenetic states at centromeres is governed by histone acetylation. After starting my own laboratory at Karolinska Institutet I made important contributions towards understanding the role of RNAi in regulating pericentric heterochromatin. The ensemble of research on epigenetic regulation of centromeric chromatin has shown that it provides a universal paradigm for unraveling the regulatory machinery that operates at the chromatin level to control gene expression. Therefore we are now taking a holistic approach towards understanding epigenetic regulation, elucidating mechanisms at work both in centromere and gene regulation including the role of ncRNA. Our group recently provided evidence for a new mechanism of centromeric small RNA production leading to heterochromatin formation and we are currently investigating the role of small RNA in coding regions and intergenic regions in S. pombe. I have been invited speaker at international conferences on 40 occasions and published 58 original publications and 16 reviews (http://www.bionut.ki.se/groups/kek/publications.html). In addition to these research achievements, I am currently chairman for the Swedish Epigenetics network and was member of the EU Epigenome network of excellence.


  • Djupedal, I. Kos-Braun, R. Mosher, N. Soderholm, F. Simmer, T. Hardcastle, A. Fender, N. Heidrich, A. Kagansky, E. Bayne, E. Wagner, D. Baulcombe, R. Allshire, K. Ekwall (2009) Analysis of small RNA in Fission yeast; centromeric siRNAs are potentially generated via a structured RNA EMBO journal 28:3832-44.
  • Djupedal, I., Portoso, M., SpĂ„hr, H., Bonilla, C., Gustafsson, C., Allshire, R., Ekwall, K.(2005) RNA pol II subunit Rpb7 promotes centromeric transcription and RNAi-directed chromatin silencing. Genes & Development 19:2301-2306
  • Ekwall, K., J. P. Javerzat, A. Lorentz, H. Schmidt, G. Cranston and R. Allshire (1995). The chromodomain protein Swi6: a key component at fission yeast centromeres. Science 269:1429-31.