Group Leader: Dr Steen Ooi
The central dogma of biology is that genes code for proteins, which in turn are responsible for building cells and bodies. Our bodies are composed of diverse cell types, all specialized for specific tasks, which ensure our normal development and survival. This requires the correct expression of all genes present in our genome. One way in which this is controlled is through modifications to our genetic material that, while leaving the underlying sequence information unchanged, affects how it is packaged. Errors in where these modifications occur throughout the genome play an important contributing role in the development of diseases such as cancer. Our group uses genetic, cell and molecular biological approaches to understand how these modifications are controlled and correctly interact.
Within the field of mammalian gene regulation, it is widely accepted that as well as sequence specific transcription factors, modifications to DNA (such as methylation of cytosine residues) and chromatin (through the incorporation of histone variants and post-translation modifications) contribute to gene silencing and activation. These mechanisms/processes underlie epigenetic phenomena, which refer to the transmission of deviations in cellular function and behavior that cannot be explained by genetic differences. Alterations in epigenetic processes are a key contributory aspect of complex, non-infectious diseases such as cancer and understanding how they are regulated will help in the development of more targeted, and therefore effective, therapies.