How a complex, multicellular organism develops from a single fertilised egg is among the most intriguing concepts in biology. This phenomenon is further augmented by the fact that metazoan organisms consist of many distinct cell types that largely differ in their morphology, function and gene expression patterns, yet contain identical genomic DNA.
Nowadays, we know that such a vast variety of cell types is generated and maintained by mechanisms that in most cases do not involve alterations in the primary DNA sequence. Such epigenetic mechanisms include (but are not limited to): DNA methylation, post-translational modifications of histone tails, long non-coding RNA and nucleosome positioning. The development of massively parallel DNA sequencing technologies has facilitated the generation of precise epigenome maps corresponding to myriad cell-lines, tissues and disease samples with the aim of deciphering the epigenomic component of diverse cellular forms and functions.
The research in the Developmental Epigenomics Lab aims to understand the contributions of the epigenome to embryonic development, cell differentiation and disease. We are particularly interested in how DNA methylation patterns are established, maintained and altered during those processes. Our interest in DNA methylation stems from the fact that this epigenetic mark can be stably propagated through cell division and that the quantity of DNA methylation at regulatory regions can be indicative of their activity.
Finally, a vast wealth of studies have demonstrated strong links between DNA methylation and various disease phenotypes suggestive of its potential applicability as a biomarker. Our Lab employs a combination of massively parallel sequencing technologies and bioinformatics and uses zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model system.
Our research in the news:
- Scimex: Hopping genes provide the clue to frog’s origin
- The Conversation: The genetic ‘switch’ that makes many animals look alike as embryos
- SBS Science: Genes reveal why our embryos once looked like toads
- Nature Genetics (News and Views): Tet proteins enhance the developmental hourglass
- The Australian: Gene switch makes embryos look like toads
- La Vanguardia: Nuevas investigaciones ayudan a comprender cómo se construyen los vertebrados (article in Spanish)