Genomics analysis of transcriptional regulation

If you think of the different cells in your body, for example, skin cells, blood cells, liver cells, neural cells, etc. they all have very different shapes, dimensions, functions and even life span. Yet they all share virtually the same genetic information. What is even more intriguing, they all proceed from a single initial cell, the zygote, which then differentiates into the hundreds of cell types that constitute your body. How is it possible that despite having the same genetic information those cells have such different characteristics? This is because cells will only use certain parts of their genetic information to accomplish the specific functions that they need to perform depending, for example, on which stage of differentiation they are in, their location in the body and their need to respond to different stimuli. This is important because when cells lose the ability to control which parts of their genetic material to use, this usually results in diseases such as cancer or developmental disorders.

The interest of our group is to understand how cells are able to control the flow of genetic information. This is carried out by a complex regulatory system in which a plethora of sequence-specific transcription factors, chromatin modifiers and basal transcriptional machinery, among others, work in an orchestrated fashion to ensure the correct deployment and maintenance of gene expression programmes.

To examine how these epigenetic mechanisms work, our mixed experimental-computational laboratory uses genome-wide techniques implemented around next-generation sequencing techniques such as RNA-seq, ChIP-seq and Hi-C to examine different aspects of the transcriptional regulatory process. We employ different model organisms, such as yeast, flies, zebrafish and mouse, and publicly available data depending on the scientific question of interest.

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