Epigenetics refers to the inheritance of a phenotype without altering the underlying DNA sequence, which could be the propagation of gene expression through cell division or transgenerational inheritance of information from parent to offspring. Most heritable information is transmitted by DNA but some traits, such as stress response, fertility and longevity, can be inherited nongenetically.
Epigenetic processes often impact chromatin structure. A major form of epigenetic information is the covalent modifications of DNA and histone proteins that form chromatin. The patterns of the histone modifications are associated with gene activity, and some modifications themselves have been shown to control genomic activity such as transcription, DNA replication and repair. Therefore, the combination of the modifications became a popular tool to mechanistically dissect the underlying mechanism regulating genomic activity. Using functional genomic approaches such as ChIP-seq for the modifcations, we can profile their distribution in the genome to reveal the chromatin landscape. In addition, to probe the structure of chromatin at the genomic level, nuclease-based assays such as MNase, DNase and ATAC-seq are widely performed. Furthermore, to investigate the gene activity, modern RNA-seq technology (e.g. mRNA-seq, total RNA-seq and nuclear capRNA-seq) will lead us into the complex transcription landscape of RNA polymerase II.
Here in Leeds, we utilise current functional genomic tools to address exciting questions not only in fundamental biology but also in modern medicine. Our aim is to improve our knowledge of epigenomics and how it plays a role in the onset of human diseases.