Epigenetic inheritance: the influence of variable silencing of the repeat genome
Prof Anne Ferguson-Smith
University of Cambridge
Only a small portion of our DNA contains genes. In fact, more than half of our DNA is repeated many times and it has been thought that this might be ‘junk’ DNA with no function. We have identified some unusual repetitive elements that behave differently in different people and which have the potential to influence our genes by a mechanism that we do not understand.
We will determine whether these repeat elements play a role in regulating our DNA, whether they can act as biosensors for environmental compromise (like a canary in a coal mine), whether the differences they induce can contribute to why one person might be different to another, and whether their properties can be transmitted from one generation to the next.
Understanding the function and regulation of these special repeat elements will provide new and important insights into the function and regulation of repetitive DNA.