Center of Excellence in Epigenetics

Epigenetics holds great potential to uncover the secrets of the blueprint of life. Epigenetics refers to heritable changes in phenotype or gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence.

Soon after the human genome was sequenced, it was realized that understanding the genome's function revolves much around the epigenetic mechanisms and not only the DNA sequence. During the development of a multicellular organism, a single-cell zygote gives rise to different cell types organized in precise space by differentially regulating identical DNA in all cells. This requires a coordinated temporal and spatial regulation of genes by epigenetic mechanisms. Any disturbances to epigenetic modifications during this process by internal or external environmental conditions, such as pollutants or altered metabolism due to dietary habits, and temperature, can affect normal development. An in-depth understanding of epigenetic control of development, pattern formation, and regeneration will likely benefit basic biology and biotechnology, in vitro organ development, regeneration, and disease biology.

The vision for the Center of Excellence in Epigenetics at SNU is to build upon an interdisciplinary synergy generated during the first decade of its existence at IISER Pune. We aim to bring together a group of established as well as young investigators with expertise in diverse fields, including Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, Molecular Cell Biology, Developmental Biology, Neurobiology, Genomics, Proteomics, and Computational Biology, to formulate and test a set of novel and exciting hypotheses in the field of Epigenetics. In particular, the center is focused on epigenetic modifications underlying various biologically essential phenomena and their role in gene expression, development, regeneration, diseases, evolution, and adaptation.

Using multiple model systems, we aim to address the following key questions:

  • What are the principles and mechanisms of the evolution of epigenetic regulation?
  • How do some early multicellular animals regenerate damaged body parts and exhibit epigenetic plasticity?
  • What is the context-specific role of the chromatin organizer SATB family proteins during early development and differentiation?
  • What are the dynamics of epigenetic modifications in human cells and their potential association with the environment and complex human diseases?
  • How are the plethora of epigenetic changes inherited or transmitted to the offspring?

We will employ and develop genetic, biochemical, genome-wide, and computational approaches to investigate complex and dynamic processes including the mechanisms of gene regulation, cell proliferation, self-renewal, regeneration, and interrelationships between these processes.