How are DNA loops regulated during development to generate and maintain the diversity of cell types found in an organism?
We seek to understand the molecular mechanisms by which cells acquire their identity during development and how dynamic changes in cell identity occur during differentiation. How does a cell faithfully maintain the proper expression of thousands of genes that determine its identity? How is a change brought about when a cell needs to differentiate or respond to an environmental signal? The answers to these questions lie in understanding the dynamic nature of chromatin and determining what instructions are encoded within DNA versus epigenetically regulated. We are investigating the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that are responsible for control of cellular identity. We use embryonic stem cells as a model system to address this question since they are pluripotent and can be directed to differentiate into the many other cell types of an organism.