Zachary Levi Watson, PhD

Assistant Professor
Division of Reproductive Sciences
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology


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

Research Complex 2
12700 East 19th Avenue
Room 3101, MS 8613
Aurora, CO 80045

Phone: (303) 724-0442
Fax: (303) 724-3512

Research Interests
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. His research interestes include: ovarian cancer, epigenetics, therapy resistance, tumor microenvironment, tumor-adipocyte interaction and immune evasion.

Full List of Publications

Recent Publications

  1. Sawyer BT, Qamar L, Yamamoto TM, McMellen A, Watson ZL, Richer JK, Behbakht K, Schlaepfer IR, Bitler BG. Targeting Fatty Acid Oxidation to Promote Anoikis and Inhibit Ovarian Cancer Progression. Mol Cancer Res. 2020 Mar 20. PMID: 32198139.
  2. 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 carcinoma. Clin Epigenetics. 2019 11 27; 11(1):165. PMID: 31775874.
  3. Park PH, Yamamoto TM, Li H, Alcivar AL, Xia B, Wang Y, Bernhardy AJ, Turner KM, Kossenkov AV, Watson ZL, Behbakht K, Casadei S, Swisher EM, Mischel PS, Johnson N, Bitler BG. Amplification of the Mutation-Carrying BRCA2 Allele Promotes RAD51 Loading and PARP Inhibitor Resistance in the Absence of Reversion Mutations. Mol Cancer Ther. 2020 02; 19(2):602-613. PMID: 31575654.
  4. 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 Sep 27; 19:474-491. PMID: 31437751.
  5. Yamamoto TM, McMellen A, Watson ZL, Aguilera J, Ferguson R, Nurmemmedov E, Thakar T, Moldovan GL, Kim H, Cittelly DM, Joglar AM, Brennecke EP, Wilson H, Behbakht K, Sikora MJ, Bitler BG. Activation of Wnt signaling promotes olaparib resistant ovarian cancer. Mol Carcinog. 2019 10; 58(10):1770-1782. PMID: 31219654.
  6. Watson ZL, Bitler BG. Type I Protein Arginine Methyltransferases Overexpression Promotes Transformation and Potentiates Her2/Neu-Driven Tumorigenesis. Cancer Res. 2019 01 01; 79(1):3-4. PMID: 30602621.
  7. Bloom DC, Watson ZL, Neumann DM. Peripheral AAV Injection for Retrograde Transduction of Dorsal Root and Trigeminal Ganglia. Methods Mol Biol. 2019; 1950:237-247. PMID: 30783977.
  8. 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; 7(11):92. PMID: 30478317.
  9. Watson ZL, Washington SD, Phelan DM, Lewin AS, Tuli SS, Schultz GS, Neumann DM, Bloom DC. In Vivo Knockdown of the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Latency-Associated Transcript Reduces Reactivation from Latency. J Virol. 2018 08 15; 92(16). PMID: 29875240.
  10. Washington SD, Edenfield SI, Lieux C, Watson ZL, Taasan SM, Dhummakupt A, Bloom DC, Neumann DM. Depletion of the Insulator Protein CTCF Results in Herpes Simplex Virus 1 Reactivation In Vivo. J Virol. 2018 06 01; 92(11). PMID: 29514910.

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