Research focus: epigenetics in the immune system.
Chromatin is a focal point of gene regulation. Alterations in chromatin structure in response to external signals are often reversible, but the altered chromatin states can sometimes be maintained and propagated to daughter cells and even to the future generations of an animal after the cessation of the signaling event. This latter effect enables transient signals to heritably or "epigenetically" modify gene function without altering DNA sequences, thus providing a molecular basis for cellular memory and transgenerational inheritance of acquired traits. On the other hand, misdirected epigenetic controls, or "epimutations," underlie many human diseases. Epimutations also explain phenotypic differences between identical twins, between cloned and original animals, and explain the high incidents of birth defects in "test tube babies". Epigenetics has emerged as a new frontier in biology, with far-reaching implications. Our long-term goals are to reveal fundamental principles in epigenetics and to define how such principles underpin the development and function of the immune system.
Specialized Terms: Epigenetic memory; Transgenerational inheritance; Chromatin biology
Chromatin; Immunity; Gene Expression; Epigenesis, Genetic; Immune System Phenomena; Epigenetic Repression