Our lab is interested in epigenetic gene regulation in mammalian development and in ageing. Global epigenetic reprogramming occurs at fertilisation and fundamentally remodels the epigenomes of sperm and egg. We are working to understand the mechanisms of reprogramming and also how it may be linked with zygotic genome activation, the sudden transcriptional springing to life of the genome in the early embryo.
Soon after implantation of the embryo in the maternal uterus there is a major programme of cell fate decisions which establishes the three primary germ layers, the ectoderm (which gives rise to brain and skin), the mesoderm (giving rise to muscle and heart), and the endoderm (which gives rise to the gut amongst other tissues).
These three lineages are the foundations of all organs in the adult body and we are interested in the transcriptional and epigenetic events that underlie their emergence from the undifferentiated epiblast. Finally, we are studying how the epigenome degrades during ageing potentially in a programmed fashion, and whether there are approaches by which this degradation can be slowed down or reversed.
The totipotent embryo initiates transcription during zygotic or embryonic genome activation (EGA, ZGA). ZGA occurs at the 8-cell stage in humans and its failure leads to developmental arrest. Understanding the molecular pathways underlying ZGA and totipotency is essential to comprehend human development. Recently, human 8-cell-like cells (8CLCs) have been discovered in vitro that resemble the 8-cell embryo. 8CLCs exist among naive pluripotent stem cells and can be induced genetically or chemically. Their ZGA-like transcriptome, transposable element activation, 8-cell embryo-specific protein expression, and developmental properties make them an exceptional model system to study early embryonic cell-state transitions and human totipotency programs in vitro.
No abstract available
Genomes are inherently unstable and require constant DNA repair to maintain their genetic information. However, selective pressure has optimized repair mechanisms in somatic cells only to allow transmitting genetic information to the next generation, not to maximize sequence integrity long beyond the reproductive age. Recent studies have confirmed that somatic mutations, due to errors during genome repair and replication, accumulate in tissues and organs of humans and model organisms. Here, we describe recent advances in the quantitative analysis of somatic mutations in vivo. We also review evidence for or against a possible causal role of somatic mutations in aging. Finally, we discuss options to prevent, delay or eliminate de novo, random somatic mutations as a cause of aging.