Over the last decade epigenetic gene regulation has become a major focus of scientific research as it was shown to play an important role in normal plant and animal development, but also in the ontogeny of human disease. A role of epigenetic processes in evolution, however, has found little general support to date. The goal of this project is to understand the complex interplay of epigenetic mechanisms in plant development and evolution. Many of the approaches we use rely on the recent advances in sequencing technologies, which allow the analysis of molecular characters at an unprecedented level and speed. To achieve our goal, we will focus on two epigenetic paradigms. In Program A, we will focus on dissecting the mechanisms of genomic imprinting at the MEDEA (MEA) locus in Arabidopsis, which we will investigate using genetic, molecular, and innovative biochemical approaches to gain a comprehensive picture of the complex interplay of various epigenetic pathways. In program B, we will analyze the role of epigenetic change in adaptation and evolution using (i) an experimental selection approach in Arabidopsis, where genome-wide analyses of epigenetic modifications have become possible, and (ii) a stable, heritable, epigenetic change occurring in Mimulus populations. In this system, an epigenetic switch of the pollinator syndrome leads to reproductive isolation and, therefore, has an effect on population structure and thus the evolutionary trajectory. These experimental systems each offer unique opportunities to shed light onto the underlying mechanisms controlling epigenetic states. In combination with the new methodologies used, these analyses promise to provide step change in our understanding of epigenetic processes at the level of genes, organisms, and populations.
Field of science
- /natural sciences/biological sciences/genetics and heredity/epigenetics
Call for proposal
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