Contribution of transposable elements in cell fate decision
Dr Rebecca Berrens
University of Cambridge
We commonly believe that genetic information in every cell of our body is the same. This is only true for protein coding genes, which make up 2% of the genome. In fact, 50% of the genome is comprised of transposable elements (TEs) which can change their genomic position. This mobility enables TEs to cause genetic diseases and cancer. While TEs are inactive in most mature cells, they are very active during early development and the first embryonic cell divisions.
I aim to understand the roles of TEs in cellular differentiation. I will develop experimental and analytical methods to investigate whether TEs are transcriptionally active in all cells or only in a subpopulation of cells during embryonic development.
These studies will reveal the molecular origins of mammalian development and could contribute to the identification and treatment of genetic disorders.