The nucleobases and proteins of the genome can be modified, replaced, or mutated. In eukaryotic cells, the spatial organisation of the genome determines which genes are active under which circumstances, at what level, and for how long. Dozens of proteins are involved in organising the genome and regulating gene activity. Cells combine these proteins in various ways to adapt to different situations and to fulfil highly specialised and varied functions. All of this makes the study of genomes a complicated endeavour.
The organisation of genomes, and the mechanisms cells use to access genomic information, are investigated across several research units and EMBL sites. While some groups try to understand how the genes on an entire chromosome can be switched off, others investigate the features that define highly active genomic regions. Another area of investigation is the process by which copies of chromosomes are segregated during cell division, so that the two resulting cells end up with the correct chromosomes.
EMBL scientists combine detailed mechanistic studies with techniques to analyse whole genomes. Bioinformatic approaches and experiments in a traditional lab setting complement each other. Together with the development of new statistical tools, these efforts will provide a clearer picture of how our genomes work.