Peter Rugg-Gunn

Research Summary

We are interested in understanding how the epigenome is established during human development and stem cell differentiation, and how epigenetic information changes over the life course of a person.

To research these topics, we use different types of stem cell (primarily human pluripotent stem cells) in combination with a variety of molecular and genetic approaches to characterise and perturb their epigenomes. The stem cell models are sometimes complemented with the characterisation of mouse and human embryos at very early stages in their development.

This research is important because establishing our epigenomes correctly during development has long lasting consequences on our health, and we need to know more about how it happens and why it sometimes goes wrong. Our work also provides new avenues for improving the epigenetic stability of human pluripotent stem cells, and our abilitiy to drive their specialisation towards useful cell types, which are essential requirements to fulfill their promise in regenerative medicine. 

Latest Publications

Transcription factors make the right contacts.
Rugg-Gunn PJ

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Nature cell biology, , 1476-4679, 2019

PMID: 31548607

Author Correction: Promoter interactome of human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes connects GWAS regions to cardiac gene networks.
Choy MK, Javierre BM, Williams SG, Baross SL, Liu Y, Wingett SW, Akbarov A, Wallace C, Freire-Pritchett P, Rugg-Gunn PJ, Spivakov M, Fraser P, Keavney BD

In the original version of the Article, the gene symbol for tissue factor pathway inhibitor was inadvertently given as 'TFP1' instead of 'TFPI'. This has now been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.

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Nature communications, 9, 2041-1723, 2018

PMID: 30420621

Genome-Scale Oscillations in DNA Methylation during Exit from Pluripotency.
Rulands S, Lee HJ, Clark SJ, Angermueller C, Smallwood SA, Krueger F, Mohammed H, Dean W, Nichols J, Rugg-Gunn P, Kelsey G, Stegle O, Simons BD, Reik W

Pluripotency is accompanied by the erasure of parental epigenetic memory, with naïve pluripotent cells exhibiting global DNA hypomethylation both in vitro and in vivo. Exit from pluripotency and priming for differentiation into somatic lineages is associated with genome-wide de novo DNA methylation. We show that during this phase, co-expression of enzymes required for DNA methylation turnover, DNMT3s and TETs, promotes cell-to-cell variability in this epigenetic mark. Using a combination of single-cell sequencing and quantitative biophysical modeling, we show that this variability is associated with coherent, genome-scale oscillations in DNA methylation with an amplitude dependent on CpG density. Analysis of parallel single-cell transcriptional and epigenetic profiling provides evidence for oscillatory dynamics both in vitro and in vivo. These observations provide insights into the emergence of epigenetic heterogeneity during early embryo development, indicating that dynamic changes in DNA methylation might influence early cell fate decisions.

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Cell systems, , 2405-4712, 2018

PMID: 30031774