Large grant for elucidating the embryo epigenome

Veenstra, Gert-Jan

The US National Institutes of Health awards 1.4 million US dollar to Dr. Gert Jan Veenstra (Department of Molecular Biology) for research to identify functional elements in the genome ofXenopus, an important model system for embryogenesis. This award is the second R01 grant awarded to Veenstra by the US National Institutes of Health.

Embryos of the amphibian Xenopus tropicalis represent an excellent model system for vertebrate development and differentiation. While many genes have been identified in the genome of this model system, many of its important functional elements have not yet been discovered. Cells modify their chromosomes in specific ways to mark functionally different regions in the genome. These 'epi-genetic' modifications can be mapped for the whole genome using ultra-high throughput DNA sequencing, resulting in 'epigenome' maps. The objective of the project is to use epigenetic modifications to generate reference epigenome maps of functional elements that will form a rich resource for the scientific community.  These elements are involved in gene regulation during early embryogenesis. It is expected that this much needed annotation of the genome will accelerate the analysis of the cellular and molecular basis of development and congenital disease.

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