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Felice Elefant , Ph.D.

Felice Elefant, PhD

Associate Professor
Department of Biology
Office: PISB 317
Phone: 215.895.0220
Lab Location: PISB 312 A
Lab Phone: 215.895.0573
Additional Sites: The Elefant Lab


  • BS, George Washington University
  • PhD, Temple University
  • Postdoc, Epigenetics, University of Pennsylvania, Departments of Genetics and Medicine, Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Research Interests:

Impairment of epigenetic gene control mechanisms in the brain involving histone acetylation causes significant cognitive deficits that are a debilitating hallmark of most neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD).   My laboratory is focused on understanding the mechanisms that govern epigenetic regulation of higher order brain function.  Recently, we made the exciting discovery that epigenetic Tip60 histone acetylation (HAT) action is critical for cognitive processes and remarkably, plays a neuroprotective role under in vivo disease state neurodegenerative conditions.   We are currently exploring the mechanisms underlying neural Tip60 HAT function in neuroprotective epigenetic gene control and the beneficial impact that environmental enrichment conditions has on these processes.   Our studies should provide new understanding into epigenetic-based mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders, and broad insights into HAT based drug design for early therapeutic intervention of cognitive deficits.

Selected Publications:

  • Xu S, Elefant F. 2015. Tip off the HAT- Epigenetic control of learning and memory by Drosophila Tip60. Fly (Austin). 2015 Jan 2;9(1):22-8. PMID: 26327426
  • Xu, S., Wilf, R., Menon, T., Sarthi, J. and Elefant, F*. 2014. Epigenetic control of learning and memory in Drosophila by Tip60 HAT action. GENETICS 198(4): 1571-86. PMCID: 4256772 Editorially featured on cover and selected as Issue Highlight.
  • “Sleepy Flies Help Understand Alzheimer’s Brains” Inside Science TV Video News segment on Elefant Lab, 2014.
  • Johnson, A., Sarthi, J., Pirooznia, S., Ruebe, B., and Elefant, F*. 2013. Increasing Tip60 HAT levels rescues axonal defects and associated behavioral defects in a Drosophila Alzheimer’s disease model. Journal of Neuroscience. Apr 24;33(17):7535-47. PMCID: 3711104 Featured as a ‘Key Research Article’ in “Psychology Progress”.
  • Pirooznia, S. and Elefant, F*. 2013. Targeting Specific HATs for Neurodegenerative Disease Treatment: Translating Basic Biology to Therapeutic Possibilities. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.;7:30. PMCID: 23543406
  • Pirooznia, K.., J., Chieu, K., Chan, M., Zimmerman, J and Elefant, F*. 2012 Tip60 and APP mediate axonal growth and PDF levels in Drosophila clock neurons to regulate sleep. GENETICS 192(4):1327-45. PMCID: 3512142 Editorially featured on cover and selected as Issue Highlight.
  • Pirooznia, S., Sarthi, J., Zervos, A., Lorbeck, M., Chieu, K., Koduri, S, and Elefant, F*. 2012. Tip60 HAT activity mediates APP induced lethality and apoptotic cell death in the CNS of a Drosophila Alzheimer’s disease model. PLoS ONE 7(7):e41776. PMCID: 3406101
  • Sarthi, J.and Elefant, F*. 2011. Tip60 HAT activity controls synaptic bouton growth at the Drosophila neuromuscular junction. PLoS ONE 27;6(10):e26202. PMCID: 3203119
  • Lorbeck, M.T., Pirooznia, K., Sarthi,J. , Zhu, X, and Elefant, F*. 2011. Microarray analysis uncovers a role for Tip60 in nervous system function and general metabolism. PLoS ONE 11;6(4):e18412. PMCID: 3073973
  • Singh, N., Lorbeck, M.T., Zervos,A., Zimmerman, J, and Elefant, F*. 2010. The histone acetyltransferase Elp3 plays an active role in the control of synaptic bouton expansion and sleep in Drosophila. J. of Neurochemistry 115, 493-504. PMCID: In progress (NIHMS: 222944)
  • Zhu, X., Singh, N., Donnelly, C., Boimel, P. & Elefant, F*. 2007. The cloning and characterization of the histone acetyltransferase human homolog Dmel\TIP60 in Drosophila melanogaster: Dmel\TIP60 is essential for multicellular development. Genetics 175, 1229-40. PMCID: 1840084 Editorially Featured as Issue Highlight.