The Verdin lab studies the relationship between aging and the immune system. Aging is associated with defects in the adaptive immune system and with a state of chronic activation of the innate immune system (chronic inflammation).
We study how immune aging is regulated by nutrition. We have demonstrated how changes in the relative abundance of key cellular metabolites such as NAD+, acetylcoenzyme A, and the ketone body beta-hydroxybutyrate fluctuate under different nutritional conditions (obesity, calorie restriction, fasting, time-restricted feeding, ketogenic diet) and how this influences immune responses. We are working on key enzymes regulated by these metabolites. These include sirtuins (NAD+), histone acetyltransferases (acetylcoenzyme A), and histone deacetylases (HDACs).
We utilize worm, mice, and human model systems (including stem cells and iPSCs) to define how nutrients influence immune responses during aging. We are also studying how HIV infection induces a state of chronic inflammation and immune activation and how this induces accelerated aging in patients infected with HIV.
Why it matters
We believe chronic inflammation represents a key unifying factor underpinning the development of the chronic diseases of aging, including neurodegeneration (Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), cancer, type 2 diabetes, and atherosclerosis (heart attack and stroke). We are intrigued by possible connections between senescence, leaky gut, and innate immune activation. A better understanding of the mechanisms leading to the chronic inflammation associated with aging should provide novel therapeutic targets and potential interventions against human aging.
Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.
Eric Verdin, MD
Dr. Verdin is the president and chief executive officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. A native of Belgium, Dr. Verdin received his Doctorate of Medicine (MD) from the University of Liege and completed additional clinical and research training at Harvard Medical School. He has held faculty positions at the University of Brussels, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Picower Institute for Medical Research. Dr. Verdin is also a professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco.
Dr. Verdin studies how metabolism, diet, and small molecules regulate the activity of HDACs and sirtuins, and thereby the aging process and its associated diseases, including Alzheimer’s. He has published more than 210 scientific papers and holds more than 15 patents. He is a highly cited scientist (top 1 percent) and has been recognized for his research with a Glenn Award for Research in Biological Mechanisms of Aging and a senior scholarship from the Ellison Medical Foundation. He is an elected member of several scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, and the Association of American Physicians. He also serves on the advisory council of National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health.
Dr. Verdin has extensive experience working with biotech companies. He is a founder of Acylin (purchased by Abbvie). He served on the scientific advisory boards of Elixir, Sirtris (purchased by GSK), Calico (Google), and Nokia, and he also served as advisor to Sofinnova Ventures. Dr. Verdin has also worked for several years as a consultant to Novartis, GSK, J&J, Altana, Roche, Pfizer, and other biotech companies.
Olga Bielska, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Rachid Boutoual, PhD Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Dr. Boutoual grew up in Agadir, Morocco. He joined the Verdin lab in October, 2018, following his PhD in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Abdelmalek Essaadi, faculty of Sciences, Tetouan, Morocco. Rachid completed the majority of his studies for his Ph.D. work in the laboratory of Dr. Maria Eugenia Armengod at Principe Felipe Research Center, Valencia, Spain. His doctoral dissertation was focused on the understanding the molecular mechanisms of mitochondrial diseases associated with defects in the post-transcriptional modification of mitochondrial tRNAs catalyzed by the proteins TRMU, MTO1 and GTPBP3. Rachid is currently interested in the role of mitochondrial sirtuins, protein acylation and epigenetic regulation in aging. If time permits, he enjoys playing sports, especially football and swimming, long walks on the beach and of course as he is new to San Francisco, he enjoys exploring this city.
Cori Ann Conner Research Associate II
Cori was born in Washington, D.C., and spent most of her childhood on Long Island, New York. She attended the University of Nevada, Reno, where she received her undergraduate degree in molecular microbiology and immunology with a minor in biochemistry. She did research and wrote her thesis on an extremely antibiotic-resistant form of bacteria called Acinobacter baumanii and its ability to create biofilms that make infections extremely hard to treat. During college, she played lacrosse for the Wolf Pack and coached a local high school girls lacrosse team in Reno, as well. After six years in Reno, she decided it was time for a change and moved to Petaluma, California. She has worked at the Buck since July 2017 and takes care of the mouse colony and other fundamental laboratory activities. She has three dogs and loves to spend her weekends hiking and going to the beach with them, along with coaching a travel girls lacrosse team and competing at the post-collegiate level on the weekends.
Anthony Covarrubias, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Covarrubias is currently exploring the links between inflammation and aging. He joined the Verdin lab in spring 2016 after earning his PhD in the biological sciences program at the Harvard School of Public Health. He has a particular interest in how the innate immune system utilizes nutrients. He came to the Verdin lab because it was among the first to show that endogenous changes in metabolites can affect gene function, and his project in the lab is focused on understanding how metabolites impact the innate immune system during aging. Anthony grew up in Los Angeles and got his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from UCLA. After grad school at Harvard, he is glad to be back on the West Coast. He is new to San Francisco and enjoys exploring the city, visiting breweries, and cheering for the Dodgers when they are in town!
Andrew Cruz PhD Candidate, USC-Buck Biology of Aging Program
Andrew grew up in Long Beach, California, and earned his bachelor’s degree in molecular cell biology from California State University, Long Beach. In his undergraduate lab, he probed structural aspects of Gα-interacting vesicle-associated protein, a signaling protein which plays a role in regulating cell migration and promoting cell survival. Anthony joined the Verdin lab in May 2018. He is interested in the factors that regulate nucleolus size and longevity. Outside of the lab, he enjoys reading, eating at new restaurants, and learning new songs on the ukulele.
Herb Kasler, PhD Staff Scientist, Flow Cytometry Core Director
Dr. Kasler did his undergraduate work in biology at Duke University and earned his PhD in immunology from University of California, Berkeley, working on the regulation of cell death in T-cell development in the laboratory of Dr. Astar Winoto. Since joining the Verdin lab, his main area of focus has been elucidating the immunobiology of histone deacetylase 7 (HDAC7), an epigenetic regulator with an essential role in the maintenance of immune self-tolerance. With other members of the immunology group, he is working to define the molecular mechanisms whereby the TCR-dependent nuclear export of HDAC7 mediates both negative thymic selection and the differentiation of agonist-selected innate-like T-cell populations. By understanding the important role of HDAC7 in T-cell development, he hopes to gain new insights into the regulation of immune self-tolerance and also to identify novel molecular pathways that can be targeted in autoimmune disease. When he is not pushing back the frontier of human knowledge one miniprep at a time, he likes to cook fabulous food for his friends and family, hike through the many splendid landscapes surrounding the Bay Area, and play at being a suburban farmer.
Ik-Jung Kim, PhD Postdoctoral Research Scholar
Dr. Kim is originally from South Korea. After earning an undergraduate and a master’s degree at Sogang university, he moved to the United States for a PhD training in the field of cellular microbiology. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, he worked in Dr. Steven Blanke’s lab to study human infection with Helicobacter pylori, which he found manipulates host metabolism, resulting in a global metabolic shift from a biosynthetic to a catabolic state. As growing older, his deep interest in human metabolism stretched to aging biology and finally drew him to the Buck Institute. Since joining Verdin lab in February, 2019, he strive to understand how the levels of NAD+, a central metabolite involved in energy production and healthspan, are systemically regulated, using in vitro and in vivo models. Outside of the lab, he can be found exploring the beautiful nature in Northern California, or, pampering his hedgehog pets.
Ryan Kwok Research Associate
Che-Ping Ng Lab Manager
Che-Ping grew up on the small island of Penang, Malaysia, and graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. Prior to joining the Verdin lab in 2013, she studied microglia and genetic modifiers of Huntington’s disease. In addition to managing the Verdin lab, she is currently working on SIRT1-related research. Che-Ping loves animals (especially dogs) and is an avid coffeeholic and foodie. She also really enjoys engaging in outdoor activities (especially photography) with her husband.
Oishika Panda, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Panda joined the Verdin lab in February 2018, right after receiving her PhD in chemistry and chemical biology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. She grew up in Kolkata and Delhi in India and is delighted with the Bay Area weather after battling the harsh Ithaca winters! Oishika is interested in applying her analytical chemistry skills to study the regulation of posttranslational acylations of proteins by endogenous metabolites and their signaling functions. In her spare time, she enjoys trying out new cheesecake recipes, playing with dogs, and discussing Harry Potter and Middle Earth trivia with whomever wants to listen!
Irene Park, PhD Staff Science Writer
Originally from South Korea, Irene grew up in sunny Southern California. She moved to the East Coast for her undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and Philosophy at Cornell University. As if the frigid winter in Ithaca was not scary enough, she then moved to Michigan to pursue a PhD in Human Genetics at the University of Michigan. She finally came full circle when she moved back to California to start her job as a staff science writer at the Buck, and she is excited to call the Bay Area her new home. When she is not writing or editing, she likes to try different restaurants, watch movies and documentaries, go to stand-up comedy shows, and melt over cute dog videos on the Internet.
Rosalba Perrone, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Perrone joined the Verdin lab in January 2017. She earned her PhD in biomedicine at the University of Padua in Italy, studying innovative therapeutic targets at the HIV proviral level. In the Verdin lab, her original interest in HIV biology meets her new and exciting interest in aging. She’s working to investigate and elucidate mechanisms that link HIV infection and aging, since increasing evidence supports accelerated aging in HIV-positive patients. Science is not her only big passion. Rosalba loves to express herself through creative arts, primarily with belly dancing. She also loves everything that comes from her home country of Italy — especially the good food and music. Her first goal in life is to always be passionate, curious, and happy. Her motto is, “Resolve to be the sun!”
Tugsan Tezil, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Tezil grew up in Izmir, Turkey. He has a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology and genetics and earned his PhD in biological sciences and bioengineering from Sabanci University in Istanbul. He then moved to Italy to work on mitochondrial metabolism in cancer. After three years of postdoctoral training at the National Cancer Institute of Italy, he came to San Francisco to work in the Verdin lab in 2016. Tugsan is currently focusing on epigenetic regulation of the aging process in model organisms like C. elegans and mice, as well as cultured mammalian cells. He is investigating the effect of potential compounds that change the activity of histone acetyltransferases and deacetylases. He enjoys singing, cooking, and creating molecular gastronomy recipes in his kitchen.
Marius Walter, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Walter grew up in the south of France and received a master’s degree from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. His PhD work at the Institut Curie in Paris focused on transposable element regulation during embryonic development. Marius joined the Verdin lab in September 2016 and has been working on using CRISPR genetic screens to uncover new mechanisms that regulate the establishment of HIV latency. He is also developing new therapeutic strategies against herpes viruses and has been particularly interested in cytomegalovirus. When not in the lab, Marius can be found climbing, skiing, biking, or backpacking in various parts of California. His diet consists almost exclusively of avocado, Pringles, and clementines.
QiuXia Wu Research Associate
Ran Zhang, PhD Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr. Zhang grew up in Tongling, China, and joined the Verdin lab in September 2017. He holds a bachelor’s degree in clinical medicine and a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College. He is currently interested in epigenetic regulation of metabolism and aging. Ran enjoys hiking and cooking.
- Verdin, E. (2015 Dec 4). NAD⁺ in aging, metabolism, and neurodegeneration. Science, 350(6265), 1208–13. DOI: 10.1126/science.aac4854. Review. PubMed PMID: 26785480.
- Verdin, E., Ott, M. (2015 Apr). 50 years of protein acetylation: From gene regulation to epigenetics, metabolism and beyond. Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol, 16(4), 258–64. DOI: 10.1038/nrm3931. PubMed PMID: 25549891.
- Gut, P., Verdin, E. (2013 Oct 24). The nexus of chromatin regulation and intermediary metabolism. Nature, 502(7472), 489–98. DOI: 10.1038/nature12752. Review. PubMed PMID: 24153302.
- Shimazu, T., Hirschey, M. D., Newman, J., He, W., Shirakawa, K., Le Moan, N., Grueter, C. A., Lim, H., Saunders, L. R., Stevens, R. D., Newgard, C. B., Farese, R. V. Jr, de Cabo, R., Ulrich, S., Akassoglou, K., Verdin, E. (2013 Jan 11). Suppression of oxidative stress by β-hydroxybutyrate, an endogenous histone deacetylase inhibitor. Science, 339(6116), 211–4. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227166. PubMed PMID: 23223453. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3735349.
- Hirschey, M. D., Shimazu, T., Jing, E., Grueter, C. A., Collins, A. M., Aouizerat, B., Stančáková, A., Goetzman, E., Lam, M. M., Schwer, B., Stevens, R. D., Muehlbauer, M. J., Kakar, S., Bass, N. M., Kuusisto, J., Laakso, M., Alt, F. W., Newgard, C. B., Farese, R. V. Jr, Kahn, C. R., Verdin, E. (2011 Oct 21). SIRT3 deficiency and mitochondrial protein hyperacetylation accelerate the development of the metabolic syndrome. Mol Cell, 44(2), 177–90. DOI: 10.1016/j.molcel.2011.07.019. PubMed PMID: 21856199. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3563434.
- Hirschey, M. D., Shimazu, T., Goetzman, E., Jing, E., Schwer, B., Lombard, D. B., Grueter, C. A., Harris, C., Biddinger, S., Ilkayeva, O. R., Stevens, R. D., Li ,Y., Saha, A. K., Ruderman, N. B., Bain, J. R., Newgard, C. B., Farese, R. V. Jr, Alt, F. W., Kahn, C. R., Verdin, E. (2010 Mar 4). SIRT3 regulates mitochondrial fatty-acid oxidation by reversible enzyme deacetylation. Nature, 464(7285), 121–5. DOI: 10.1038/nature08778. PubMed PMID: 20203611. PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2841477.