EMBL Rome group leader Jamie Hackett receives EUR 2 million for the ModLogic project, aimed at understanding how chromatin modifications impact gene activity.
Jamie Hackett, group leader at EMBL Rome, has been awarded an ERC Consolidator Grant to develop a systematic approach for dissecting how chromatin modifications regulate gene expression.
Chromatin modifications – such as DNA methylation or histone modifications – are epigenetic mechanisms linked with changes in chromatin structure and gene activity. Such chromatin modifications have been extensively studied, and their presence and dynamics across the genome have been correlated with several developmental and disease processes. However, so far it has proved challenging to identify the causal regulatory relationships involved. Precisely understanding how normal or aberrant chromatin modifications influence gene expression is crucial to dissecting how they contribute to development, environmental responses, evolution, and disease.
The ModLogic project builds on previous work from the Hackett group on developing a precision epigenome editing tool to efficiently induce chromatin modifications to specific genomic loci, with dynamic control.
“The challenge of this project is to dissect an incredibly complex system,” said Hackett. “The ultimate impact – or lack of impact – for any given chromatin modification likely depends on many context-dependent factors, such as genomic location, local genetic variation, and the cell-type involved.”
Hackett and his group will use their epigenome editing tool to systematically produce the largest dataset of precision chromatin edits to date. These data will be used to build a predictive model of how an epigenetic change in a specific genomic context influences gene expression and ultimately, phenotype.
This knowledge could eventually support the development of precision medicine strategies that elicit a specific desirable change in gene activity.
An ERC Consolidator Grant has also been awarded to Meytal Landau, a Visiting Group Leader at EMBL Hamburg, to investigate microbial amyloid proteins. Amyloids are fibrous proteins that are of interest in various areas of medicine. Landau’s grant will last five years and will help build a team that will involve DESY, EMBL Hamburg, the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE), and the Centre for Structural and Systems Biology (CSSB).