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Zachary Levi Watson, PhD

Levi Watson, PhD
Instructor, Division of Reproductive Sciences​

PhD (2013) Molecular Genetics & Microbiology, University of Florida


Mail Stop 8613

Office RC2-3101

Lab RC2-3400D

Phone 303-724-0442

Bitler Lab​

Research Interests: ovarian cancer, epigenetics, therapy resistance, tumor microenvironment, tumor-adipocyte interaction, immune evasion


Dr. Watson’s graduate work at the University of Florida involved epigenetic control of herpes simplex virus latency and reactivation. He also examined the use of ribozymes as a novel therapy to prevent HSV reactivation. In 2014, he began postdoctoral training at the University of Colorado, exploring DNA methylation and chemokine signaling in HPV-associated head and neck cancers. In 2017, he joined Dr. Benjamin Bitler’s lab in the DRS and continued his postdoctoral training. He has applied his expertise in epigenetics to examine how histone modifying enzymes promote therapy resistance in ovarian cancers. Recently promoted to Instructor, Dr. Watson is continuing his efforts in epigenetics and ovarian cancer, but is also establishing new collaborations and lines of research, including exploring the influence of adipocytes and the tumor microenvironment on ovarian cancer progression.


Recent Publications:

1.    Watson ZL, Yamamoto TM, McMellen A, Kim H, Hughes CJ, Wheeler LJ, Post MD, Behbakht K, Bitler BG. Histone methyltransferases EHMT1 and EHMT2 (GLP/G9A) maintain PARP inhibitor resistance in high grade serous ovarian cancer. Clinical Epigenetics. Provisionally accepted/In revision.

2.    Wheeler LJ, Watson ZL, Qamar L, Yamamoto TM, Sawyer BT, Sullivan KD, Khanal S, Joshi M, Ferchaud-Roucher V, Smith H, Vanderlinden LA, Brubaker SW, Caino CM, Kim H, Espinosa JM, Richer JK, Bitler BG. Multi-omic approaches identify metabolic and autophagy regulators important in ovarian cancer dissemination. iScience. 2019 Aug 6. doi: 10.1016/j.isci.2019.07.049.

3.    Yamamoto TM, McMellen A, Watson ZL, Aguilera J, Ferguson R, Nurmemmedov E, Thakar T, Moldovan GL, Kim H, Citelly DM, Joglar AM, Brennecke EP, Wilson H, Behbakht K, Sikora MJ, Bitler BG. Molecular Carcinogenesis. 2019 Jun 10. doi: 10.1002/mc.23064.

4.    Watson ZL, Bitler BG. Commentary on: Type I Protein Arginine Methyltransferases Overexpression Promotes Transformation and Potentiates Her2/Neu-Driven Tumorigenesis. Cancer Research. 2019 Jan 1. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-3552.

5.    Wheeler LJ, Watson ZL, Qamar L, Yamamoto TM, Post MD, Berning AA, Spillman MA, Behbakht K, Bitler BG. CBX2 identified as driver of anoikis escape and dissemination in high grade serous ovarian cancer. Oncogenesis. 2018 Nov 26. doi: 10.1038/s41389-018-0103-1.

6.    Bitler BG, Watson ZL, Wheeler LJ, Behbakht K. PARP inhibitors: Clinical utility and possibilities of overcoming resistance. Gynecologic Oncology. 2017 Oct 14. doi: 10.1016/j.ygyno.2017.10.003.