Over the past two decades it has become evident that there is another layer of information that sits “above” DNA-encoded genetic information in humans and other complex organisms. This information, termed “epi”genetic information, is embedded in the chemical modification of DNA and the histone proteins around which it is wrapped.
Epigenetic information determines the structure of DNA, that is how DNA is organised in the cell, which in turn determines which genes or noncoding RNAs are expressed and control normal development. Unlike genomic information epigenetic changes are also potentially influenced by environmental factors, especially during early development and can then be somatically inherited between cell generations leading to increased disease susceptibility.
The importance of epigenetics in normal development and in many disease states, including cancer, is well established but understanding the biology of DNA methylation and chromatin remodelling and the role of noncoding RNA in gene control is still in its infancy. The Clark Lab has the capability and developed high throughput sequencing tools required “to unravel the epigenome” and are now developing more sophisticated bioinformatics and capability to build and interpret reference epigenome maps of normal and diseased cells to both understand epigenome biology and address how this impacts on disease states.
The main aims of the Clark Epigenetics Research Laboratory are 1) Basic Research to elucidate how the pattern of spatial and temporal epigenetic processes control normal cell control, and how disruption of these processes contributes primarily to prostate and breast cancer and other diseases, including diabetes and obesity; 2) Translational research to mediate the translation of this knowledge into the clinical setting to improve health outcomes, through development of epigenetic-based biomarkers and potential therapeutic targets; and 3) Training to foster opportunities for talented laboratory and bioinformatic researchers to build their careers in epigenomic research in Australia.
What is epigenetics?
Watch our videos to learn more about our epigenetics research. Epigenetics Basics is one of a series of four sketch videos about epigenetics, created by Armando Hasudungan in collaboration with Professor Susan Clark and Dr Kate Patterson here at the Garvan Institute.
- Dr Eleni Giannoulatou
- Dr Heather Lee