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Decoding developmental gene regulatory programs by evolutionary transcriptomics


An animal’s ability to build itself from a single cell is arguably the most amazing phenomenon of the living world. This process follows from an intricate regulation of the genome, however, deciphering this program remains largely an unsolved problem. The premise of the proposed research program is that an organisms’ regulatory program is a product of evolution and needs to be analyzed as such. My approach is thus to study gene regulation on a phylogeny of organisms, by constructing an atlas of gene expression profiles across developmental stages for a set of 12 nematodes. Such a dataset would constitute the first analysis of genomic regulatory elements with sufficient instances of sequence programs and the corresponding expression regulations to enable comprehensive study. I propose to analyze this dataset with an algorithm that matches specific patterns of presences and absences of expression elements within a homologous group to the corresponding regulatory sequences; putative cis-regulatory sites will then be experimentally tested for the predicted pattern specific expression. In particular, I propose to search for the evolutionary principles such as heterochrony and heterotypy that underlie the evolution of gene regulatory networks, with a special focus on the mode of selection of each element of a gene’s expression profile. As a model system, I will focus on the genetic specification of the C. elegans endoderm, using advanced embryological techniques coupled with inferences from comparisons of endoderm specification across the phylum, to attempt to reprogram its development. In parallel, I shall seek to test for the universality of the observed evolutionary principles, through an analysis of available datasets across the animal kingdom. Progress along this research program aims to contribute to the broad goal of deciphering genomic regulatory networks, as well as to an understanding for how developmental processes are reprogrammed throughout evolution.

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Senate Building Technion City
32000 Haifa

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Mark Davison (Mr.)
EU contribution
€ 100 000